Comcast wins round one in FCC net neutrality case

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It appears that Comcast may have gained a three-judge panel's ear in the ongoing battle over whether the FCC has the right to punish the cable giant for blocking the online file sharing application BitTorrent.

During oral arguments last Friday, Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit told FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick that the agency acted based on policy statements that are "aspirational, not operational."

Comcast struck a similar tone. An attorney representing Comcast argued that the FCC's move was based on a set of nonbinding principles versus actual rules and that the court should vacate the FCC order. "All that existed was a policy statement," said Helgi Walker, an attorney representing Comcast.

If the court, which is expected to give its decision sometime this spring, decides that the FCC does not have the authority to punish Comcast, the agency's drive for a free and open Internet through a net neutrality rule-making proposal could be in jeopardy.

In the event it does not win the case, the FCC says it will ask Congress to pass "open Internet" legislation.

Despite these challenges, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski remained confident that the agency has a sound case. "Our hope is that there's an outcome that preserves a free and open Internet and accomplishes what we're in this game to do," he said during last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  

For more:
- Reuters has this article
- CED has this article

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