Commentary

Is Net Neutrality Really An Internet Iron Curtain?

Opponents to the Federal Communications Commission's controversial net neutrality rules are stepping up their efforts to nix the regs.

The rules, which were published in the Federal Register late last week, are slated to go into effect on Nov. 20. The news of publication prompted one leading critic, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), to reiterate that she intends to lead a legislative effort to override the rules.

Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is pushing a similar measure in the House. "Net neutrality is a net loser," she said in a statement last week. "The FCC is in essence building an Internet Iron Curtain that will restrict more of our freedom."

Broadband providers including Verizon, meanwhile, are expected to go to court to seek a ruling that the new regulations are illegal. Verizon and MetroPCS already attempted to convince a federal appellate court to stay the rules, but the effort was ruled premature because the rules hadn't yet been published.

The companies could find a receptive audience in the judicial system given that a federal appellate court has already ruled that the FCC lacks the authority to enforce neutrality regulations. In that case, the court said the FCC lacked the authority to sanction Comcast for violating neutrality principles. The reason stems from a decision the FCC made years ago to classify broadband as an "information" service rather than a "telecom" service.

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For all the rhetoric, however, the rules themselves largely enshrine the status quo. They prohibit all Internet service providers, including wireless companies, from blocking or degrading service. To date, some ISPs have tinkered with Web traffic, but only rarely. Whether that will change if the neutrality regulations are quashed remains to be determined.

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