Commentary

Silicon Valley Urges Court To Uphold Net Neutrality Rules

The new net neutrality regulations will help prevent broadband providers from transforming the Internet into a "walled garden" that resembles cable TV.

That's according to the Internet Association, a trade group made up of Google, Amazon, eBay and other Web companies. The organization is asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the new net neutrality rules.

The Federal Communications Commission's broadband regulations, which took effect in June, prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or degrading content and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery. The regulations also include a "general conduct" standard that broadly bans providers from hindering the ability of Web users and content companies to connect online. The scope of that prohibition remains uncertain; the FCC has said it intends to take a case-by-case approach when evaluating potential violations.

AT&T, CenturyLink and various other companies and trade groups have sued to vacate the rules. The FCC is opposing that request.

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Siding with the FCC, the Internet Association says that without net neutrality rules, broadband providers "could manipulate how, and even if, a consumer interacts with a Website she wants to visit."

"Left unchecked, over time ISPs could enforce a return to the 'walled garden' approach that consumers have rejected in today’s well-functioning market," the Internet Association argues in a friend-of-the-court brief filed on Sunday. "Such an outcome would undo much of the progress of the last two decades. Consumers would lose the ability to choose freely among competitive services and sources of information."

The Internet Association isn't the only industry observer siding with the FCC. Earlier today, 29 members of the House and Senate also asked the appellate court to uphold the rules.

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), focused on the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband access as a "telecommunications" service, governed by common carrier rules. That move by the FCC reversed a series of earlier decisions that classified broadband as an "information" service.

The lawmakers argue that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 empowers the FCC to change its classifications as technology evolves.

"The FCC has done precisely what Congress intended the Commission to do -- classify broadband Internet access service according to its best understanding of the technology of the day, and how consumers use that technology," the lawmakers argue. "It is within the FCC’s power -- power that Congress has delegated to it -- to reclassify broadband Internet access as a 'telecommunications service' where, as here, changed circumstances support such reclassification."

The FCC and broadband providers will argue their case on Dec. 4.

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