Comcast, FCC come to blows over net neutrality again

Comcast and the FCC are coming to blows in court once again over net neutrality, a provision that the agency designed to ensure any service provider will not deliberately throttle speed or prevent certain applications going over their networks.

This time, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is hearing oral arguments from Comcast's previous challenge of the FCC's 2008 order preventing the MSO's broadband subscribers from accessing the BitTorrent file-sharing technology.

When the order was originally placed on Comcast by then Republican FCC chairman Kevin Martin, the agency said it was based on a set of net neutrality principles it previously created in 2005 to stop broadband providers from blocking certain Internet applications.

It appears that the FCC, which voted in October to start writing the net neutrality rules, is using its fight with Comcast to get the legal leverage it needs to make its proposed net neutrality rules become new formal regulations that telcos and cable MSOs would have to follow. Formally adopting those guidelines as binding regulations is a top priority for the FCC's new Democratic chairman, Julius Genachowski.

Of course, the binding issue that will be heard in these oral arguments is whether the FCC has the legal right to tell service providers they have to abide by the proposed net neutrality rules. And if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will likely deliver its ruling in the spring, rules in the FCC's favor, it could make the FCC's case for net neutrality even stronger.

"Comcast and others have challenged the FCC's authority to take action to protect consumers and ensure their access to a free and open Internet," FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick said. "This case provides the court of appeals an opportunity to reject those arguments and confirm that the Commission has the power it needs to accomplish those goals."

For more:
- CED via AP has this article

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