Watchdog attacks FCC in court over weak net neutrality regs


There has been a big hue and cry over the FCC’s network neutrality regulatory regime. It has been called regulatory overreach over and over again, and the very same communications companies that helped craft it are expected to challenge it in court. But the first challenge is coming from a watchdog that thinks the rules do not go far enough.

Free Press will be taking the FCC to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in an attempt to strengthen the rules.

FP’s basic gripe is that there is one set of rules for stationary internet providers, and another more lax set of rules for mobile providers, a situation which it finds to be arbitrary and unacceptable.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood commented, “When the FCC first proposed the Open Internet rules, they came with the understanding that there is only one Internet, no matter how people choose to reach it. The final rules provide some basic protections for consumers, but do not deliver on the promise to preserve openness for mobile Internet access. They fail to protect wireless users from discrimination, and they let mobile providers block innovative applications with impunity.”

Wood continued, “Our challenge will show that there is no evidence in the record to justify this arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access. The disparity that the FCC’s rules create is unjust and unjustified. And it’s especially problematic because of the increasing popularity of wireless, along with its increasing importance for younger demographics and diverse populations who rely on mobile devices as their primary means for getting online.”

Wood concluded, “Free Press will fight in court to make these rules stronger, even as we work elsewhere to uphold the FCC’s crucial role in promoting openness and equality on the Internet.”

RBR-TVBR observation: It’s almost impossible to deny that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski managed to find some middle ground in the internet regulatory debate – you can tell because he essentially placed himself in the middle of a circular firing squad in which all parties from all sides were dissatisfied and taking potshots at him.

There is already talk of legislative remedy to the rules, which are scheduled to take effect in November. Speedy movement from a grid-locked Congress doesn’t seem too likely, however, with one party running the Senate and the other running the House.

But if this plays out like a lot of other controversial FCC proceedings, it will be locked up in court for a long, long time. Maybe the internet will be replaced by some other communications venue we haven’t yet dreamed of before Washington gets finished with the net neutrality concept.