Positive and negative reaction to DC Circuit’s Comcast decision


A key member of the House of Representatives saw the victory of Comcast over the FCC in a network neutrality case at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as a starting point. A key member of the Senate hopes it’s the end. And a watchdog saw it as an “existential” matter for the FCC.

Rep Ed Markey (D-MA) said the decision was a call for the FCC of Julius Genachowski to get to work. “Today the Court today threw out the previous Commission’s shoddy legal theories. In light of the Court’s ruling, I encourage the current Commission to take any actions necessary to ensure that consumers and competition are protected on the Internet. It is important to note that the Court neither called into question the wisdom of network neutrality policies nor did it exonerate Comcast for its unreasonable interference with lawful consumer Internet use.” He promised to work with his colleagues in Congress to assist the FCC to that end.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, on the other hand, saw the possibility of finality in the Court’s ruling. “This decision highlights what many already believed, the FCC does not have authority to act in this area. In light of this important court decision, policy makers should assess whether there should be any regulatory role for the agency as it relates to the Internet and how private companies manage their investment. It would be wrong to double down on excessive and burdensome regulations, and I hope the FCC Chairman will now reconsider his decision to pursue expanded commission authority over broadband services in current proceedings before the agency. The Internet has grown and flourished without federal regulations because it has been able to evolve to meet rapid changes without government roadblocks holding up progress.”

Communications watchdog Free Press, a staunch supporter of net neutrality as a necessity for an open internet, was quick with a reaction. The group’s S. Derek Turner said, “The decision has forced the FCC into an existential crisis, leaving the agency unable to protect consumers in the broadband marketplace, and unable to implement the National Broadband Plan.” He said Comcast could now block what it wants at will, and blamed the two previous FCCs (presumably the regimes of Michael Powell and Kevin Martin) for “misguided and overzealous attempts to completely deregulate America’s communications networks.” He concluded, “The FCC must have the authority to carry out its consumer protection and public interest mission in the 21st century broadband marketplace. The current Commission did not create this existential crisis, but it now has no choice but to face these tough jurisdictional questions head on, and do what is necessary to protect consumers and promote competition.”

 Note: see Court lets Comcast off the hook for FCC’s traffic ticket