Net neutrality debate finally heads to U.S. District Court

Verizon will attempt to cast off restrictions on network usage

For many a free and open Internet is the pinnacle of modern communications, enabling conversation and collaboration on scale undreamed of before the turn of the century.  Federal regulations currently protect the idyllic concept of free flowing internet traffic, but service providers are once again pushing for more control over the information flowing through their networks.

Today, Verizon will bring oral arguments to the USA court of appeals, pushing back against FCC regulations established in 2010. The Internet service provider (ISP) is likely to rearticulate its argument that the government is overstepping its bounds by limiting its control over network traffic, The Wall Street Journal reported.

This is not the first time that FCC regulations regarding net neutrality have come under fire. When Comcast’s broadband Internet service was caught blocking customer access to peer-to-peer download application a formal complaint was filed with the FCC in 2010. Comcast effectively rebuffed the FCC’s assertion that it could not legal stop customers from accessing applications that facilitated entertainment piracy. The resulting holding required a complete overhaul of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, and resulted in a new set of regulations and refined the language of net neutrality law.

In December of 2011 the FCC voted 2-3 to implement the newly overhauled measures on net neutrality. These regulations reaffirmed that ISPs should not be making judgment calls on the priority they provide legal web traffic, and requires equitable treatment of all sites. Verizon brought issue with these regulations in the spring of 2011, but the case was dismissed because the FCC had yet to publish the official set of rules, and because suits cannot be heard until 30 days after publishing.

Verizon and other ISPs argue that with the explosion of video and multimedia content, certain network priorities need to be set to allow for the most efficient flow of data. They also say that removing their ability to determine what they use their networks for is a violation of the first amendment. Federal regulations are designed to ensure that no web services are given preferential treatment over any other. The FCC and net neutrality advocates say that anything short of that could jeopardize the openness that has allowed internet to thrive.

While advocates of neutral web traffic laws criticized the 2011 ruling for not doing enough to ensure an open Internet, Inside Counsel previously reported, “ISPs have their own concerns about the sweeping new regulations, arguing that government intervention has no statutory basis and will slow innovation.”

The FCC also cites innovation as a motive for an open Internet, arguing that if ISPs are allowed to charge web publishers for premium services they could squash the next great online innovation.

Stay tuned to Inside Counsel as we cover this developing story.

Managing Editor

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Chris DiMarco

Chris DiMarco, Managing Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, has a background in multimedia production with previous involvement in projects in which he developed and created content for...

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