Neutrality Interrupted: Court Rules In Favor of Comcast

  • Save

A federal court has ruled that Comcast is authorized to interfere with user accounts and traffic flows, a decision that solidly challenges net neutrality positions in the US.

The unanimous, three-judge decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturns an earlier order by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and suddenly rearranges the neutrality debate.

The FCC got involved in 2008 after Comcast was found to be throttling high-bandwidth, BitTorrent-related requests, a move that Comcast defended as necessary to ease traffic congestion.  Indeed, congestion is a major issue that ISPs struggle with daily, especially on high-bandwidth assets like movies, games, and video content.  But neutrality advocates are more concerned with the theoretical next steps, including favoritism towards certain sites, software packages, or hardware setups.

Comcast and other access providers are obviously thrilled with the decision, and neutrality advocates predictably distressed.  The pro-neutrality group is varied, and spans heavyweights like Google, the Obama administration, and consortia like A2IM in the music world.

But this is hardly a closed book.  “Today’s court decision invalidated the prior Commission’s approach to preserving an open internet,” the FCC stated.  “But the Court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open internet; nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end.”