FCC Takes First Steps in Enforcing Net Neutrality | Citizens Against Government Waste

FCC Takes First Steps in Enforcing Net Neutrality

The WasteWatcher

The government is one step closer to regulating the Internet as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) attempts to sanction Comcast for its management of Internet traffic.  The FCC claims that its authority to act is covered under broadband network principles that were adopted in September 2005.  The principles were intended to increase competition among network providers, and allow consumer access to “the lawful Internet content of their choice … run applications and use services of their choice … and connect to their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.”  This was supposed to address network neutrality.

Proponents of net neutrality argue that all Internet traffic should be considered equal, and no traffic should be blocked or slowed down because of its content, destination, or origin.  Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast argue that they should be allowed to manage traffic in order to keep information flowing to all users.

In what was anticipated to be a partisan fight within the FCC, Democrats Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps voted with Republican Chairman Kevin Martin on August 18 to find Comcast in violation of the September 2005 broadband principles for the company’s management of file sharing applications.

That decision was the first time any company was found to have violated the principles and it formed the basis for the FCC’s view of net neutrality.  The FCC stated that “Comcast had unduly interfered with Internet users’ right to access the lawful Internet content and to use the applications of their choice.”  The ruling will force Comcast to disclose information regarding the company’s network management.  It also means Comcast will have to end its regulation of peer to peer file sharing.  However, the Commission decided against fining Comcast.

On September 4, 2008, Comcast appealed the FCC’s decision, claiming that the company is not blocking the sharing of files, but only slowing file sharing traffic.  Comcast argues that it has the right to protect other customers from continuous file sharing that can slow down their connection.  The company argues that it was only attempting to limit excessive broadband movement that can burden other customers.  In addition, file sharing can often violate copyright and intellectual property laws.

ISPs have already begun policing themselves and taken action to protect Internet users.  Innovation will be stifled and millions of tax dollars will be wasted if the FCC continues to be evolve into an Internet police force.

Sarah Maroney

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