The Feds Lost Net Neutrality, But Won Control of the Web

Here’s What Really Just Happened: Yet Another Government Agency Gets Broad Power

What just happened? Well, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found in 2008 that Comcast had violated the agency’s net neutrality policy statement by allegedly slowing BitTorrent traffic. The D.C. Circuit then found the FCC lacked statutory authority. The FCC responded with the 2010 Open Internet Order, which re-interpreted Section 706 of the Communications Act as a broad grant of authority. So Verizon sued. Two days ago, the court accepted that re-interpretation, which means the FCC can regulate net neutrality even though the court struck down the two key provisions of the Open Internet Order.

Indeed, the court has very nearly given the FCC — and state utility commissions, to boot — carte blanche to regulate the entire internet. And that’s the real story here.

The only real limit is that the FCC can’t overtly treat internet services like common carriers. But this limit may mean little. Indeed, the court’s ruling even lets regulators assert new powers to regulate internet services well beyond broadband… Still, putting that kind of broad power in the hands of government should trouble anyone worried about the abuses of the NSA or the prospect of the International Telecommunications Union taking over internet governance.

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