D.C. Circuit Court Appears Skeptical of FCC's Net Neutrality Rules, Again

By:  Raven Clabough
D.C. Circuit Court Appears Skeptical of FCC's Net Neutrality Rules, Again

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is hearing arguments on the Federal Communications Commission’s Internet access rules that prohibit cable and telecom carriers from blocking websites, even those that compete with their own Internet businesses.

The judges on the Court of Appeals appeared skeptical of the increased regulations on broadband providers.

In addition to barring companies from blocking websites, the Washington Post reports that the rules “also strongly discourage the creation of ‘fast lanes’ for Web sites willing to pay more for VIP delivery of their content into homes. Such deals would have allowed Verizon Communications, for example, to charge Netflix extra for faster delivery of its streaming videos.”

The FCC is being sued for its rules by Verizon, which argued in court on Monday that the regulator is overstepping its authority by imposing phone-era rules on the broadband Internet industry.

Verizon contends that the Open Internet Order violates the company’s rights under the First and Fifth Amendments. Verizon argues that its role as an Internet provider allows it to select the services it wants to provide, and are editorial decisions of a sort that should be protected as free speech.

The court’s decision is a significant one as it could affect the future of the FCC as a regulator of the Internet.

The judges appear to be skeptical of the FCC’s arguments. Three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals questioned an FCC lawyer on Monday on the FCC’s legal basis for creating its “net neutrality” rules in 2010. According to the Washington Post, two of the three judges at times appeared to agree with Verizon’s criticism of the net-neutrality rules that prevent broadband providers from making fast lane deals.

Verizon’s attorney Helgi Walker argued that the rules hamper new investments in networks by not allowing telecom and cable companies to explore partnerships with websites that could bring in new sources of revenue. “But for these rules, we could be pursuing those types of commercial arrangements,” Walker said. “My client wants freedom to explore that.”

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