Comcast, commissioners weigh in on DC Circuit ruling


Cable and internet giant Comcast and two FCC commissioners were very happy with the DC Circuit’s ruling on the FCC’s ability to regulate the internet under the approach of the previous FCC administration. And two commissioners weren’t so pleased. That said, Comcast – with a major merger under FCC and DOJ review – took a very measured approach as it claimed victory.

Comcast Vice President of Government Communications Sena Fitzmaurice said, “We are gratified by the Court’s decision today to vacate the previous FCC’s order. Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation. We have always been focused on serving our customers and delivering the quality open-Internet experience consumers want. Comcast remains committed to the FCC’s existing open Internet principles, and we will continue to work constructively with this FCC as it determines how best to increase broadband adoption and preserve an open and vibrant Internet.”

As one might expect, the commissioners were divided along party lines. Republicans Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker approved of the ruling and want the issue to end with it; Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn see the ruling as the starting point to establish and strengthen once and for all the boundaries of the FCC’s authority. Here are their remarks.

* Copps: Today’s decision is not just a blow to the FCC—it’s a blow to all Americans who rely on an open Internet that serves all comers without discrimination. Since 2002, I have warned about the dangers of moving the transmission component of broadband outside of the statutory framework that applies to telecommunications carriers. The only way the Commission can make lemonade out of this lemon of a decision is to do now what should have been done years ago: treat broadband as the telecommunications service that it is. In tasking the FCC with creating the National Broadband Plan, Congress and the Administration recognized that broadband is critical for the economic success of this country. We are dealing with a broadband information ecosystem where many parts come together to form a complex, synergistic and interdependent whole. My criticism today is not of the Court, but of my own FCC for the bad policy choices it has made. It is time that we stop doing the “ancillary authority” dance and instead rely on the statute Congress gave us to stand on solid legal ground in safeguarding the benefits of the Internet for American consumers. We should straighten this broadband classification mess out before the first day of summer.

* McDowell: I am pleased that today’s court order makes clear that Title I of the Communications Act provides the FCC with no authority to regulate the network management practices of an Internet service provider. I hope this decision will provide certainty in the marketplace and will not lead to the unnecessary classification of broadband service as a monopoly phone service under Title II of the Act.

* Clyburn: The Court of Appeals has made clear that, in its view, the Commission does not have the authority to enforce its prior framework designed to preserve an open Internet. The Court’s decision, however, does not change the importance of our goal nor should it weaken our resolve. Indeed, we now have the kind of guidance that will enable us to develop the most effective and legally sound rules of the road to preserve Internet openness and to achieve other important goals set forth in the National Broadband Plan. I look forward to working with my colleagues and industry to ensure that we are able to protect consumers and cultivate a vibrant Internet ecosystem where economic and social opportunities can continue to flourish.

* Baker: I am pleased that the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit emphasizes the limits of the Commission’s authority to regulate the Internet. The D.C. Circuit’s strong words today remind us that as an independent agency, we must always be constrained by the statute. We stray from it at our peril. With regard to the substantive policy at issue in this case—net neutrality—I would oppose calls to use the court’s decision as a pretext to reclassify broadband Internet access services under monopoly-era Title II regulation.