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Court Rejects FCC Net Neutrality And Leaves Consumers With No Defense Against Greedy Broadband Providers

Jan 14 2014, 12:16pm CST | by

Court Rejects FCC Net Neutrality And Leaves Consumers With No Defense Against Greedy Broadband Providers

Photo Credit: Forbes
 
 

The United States Court of Appeals in Washington DC has ruled in favor of Verizon in a case regarding the authority of the FCC to regulate Internet service providers. The decision leaves consumers at the mercy of an industry that has shown little concern for what customers want or need.

I received an emailed statement from Mercatus Center research fellow Brent Skorup. His reaction is that the court made the right decision, and that Net Neutrality regulations are a threat that undermines innovation. He asserts, “Competition law, not burdensome net neutrality obligations, should be used to preserve a dynamic Internet for consumers.”

I disagree. We’ve already seen how the broadband industry behaves in the absence of any oversight or regulation. We’ve already experienced the lethargic pace of innovation that results when the market is left alone.

The idea that a competitive market will police itself, or that a lack of regulation will somehow spur investment and innovation defies reality. The fact is that the effort by the FCC to impose a framework of Net Neutrality rules on the broadband industry was a response to irresponsible and anti-consumer behavior on the part of the industry. Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are already guilty of demonstrating exactly why they require regulation by the FCC.

Innovation? The broadband providers should be embarrassed. The United States is 30 th in average broadband speed globally. We’re behind Macau, Latvia, Moldova, Estonia, and virtually every industrialized nation in the world. The United States broadband industry doesn’t innovate. It gets dragged, kicking and screaming, into implementing new technologies and actually investing in its infrastructure.

The only glimmer of innovation that has occurred in the United States in recent years has been driven from outside of the broadband industry itself. Google took it upon itself to demonstrate how easy it really is to deliver exponentially faster broadband service without charging exorbitant monthly fees. Unfortunately, the Google service is only available in a handful of cities, and the broadband industry hasn’t taken the hint or stepped up to compete except where necessary to go head-to-head with Google.

There is actually still a little hope, though. The court decision doesn’t definitely state that the FCC has no authority to regulate the broadband industry. It asserts that the FCC can not choose to regulate the broadband industry in the way it is attempting to based on how it has chosen to classify broadband service. The ruling explains, “Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”

What that implies is that the power still resides with the FCC to simply alter the classification of broadband service so that it falls into an area where the FCC already has established jurisdiction to regulate and impose a framework of rules like Net Neutrality.

Source: Forbes

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