Appeals court rules on Net neutrality

Feb 4, 2014

By Sara Hough

NNA | Arlington, VA

WASHINGTON—All content on the Internet does not need to be considered equal according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In a January ruling on the Internet doctrine of net neutrality, the court struck down Federal Communications Commission regulations that require Internet providers to treat all traffic the same. The net neutrality regulations were created by the FCC after years of review and were championed by the Obama administration.

As a result, Internet service providers may now charge variable rates to different companies based on speed of delivery and quality of content. They have legal freedom to favor their own content or those of preferred partners over that of competitors.

Proponents of net neutrality argue that higher costs and fees could create an unfair system putting smaller companies at a disadvantage and slow innovation online.

Opponents of net neutrality argue that some companies, such as Netflix and YouTube, take greater bandwidth because of their data-heavy content and should be required to pay more than other users.

The National Newspaper Association has a general position favoring Net neutrality, but has not participated in the FCC review. NNA’s board will review the ruling at its March meeting.

The Court, in its ruling, did not find that regulation of Internet providers is beyond the scope of the FCC. Chair Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry executive, has stated that the FCC will intervene if companies are abusing their power in the marketplace. In statements to the news media, Wheeler has made clear his intention to protect the Internet as a place for innovation and as a channel for free speech.