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Court cuts FCC's net-neutrality power; now what?

The Federal Communications Commission saw most of its authority to regulate Internet access sawed off by a federal court decision yesterday. Now what?

As my colleague Cecilia Kang explains in a front-page story today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously that the FCC exceeded its mandate when it cracked down on Comcast for interfering with customers' access to some lawful Internet services.

FCC_logo.jpg

The 36-page ruling (PDF) rejects the FCC's argument that it derived "ancillary" authority to regulate Comcast's network management from its congressional mandate to "make available ... a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges." Although the FCC advanced several different arguments in support of that, the court cast them all aside, commenting acidly that one line of reasoning "would virtually free the Commission from its congressional tether."

This ruling not only vacates the FCC's action against Comcast (although the Philadelphia cable firm says it no longer targets particular services or sites when coping with heavy Internet traffic and reiterated that stance yesterday). It also knocks the legs out from underneath the network-neutrality proposals FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined last September.

In other words, if your Internet provider serves up something less than the full Internet, there's nothing the FCC can do about it except strenuously object.

That's an unsettling conclusion. But although I'm not sure I agree with every argument in the court ruling, I understand and respect its overall principle. FCC overreach is a serious risk -- five years ago, I cheered a court ruling that vacated the loathsome "broadcast flag" copy-control regulations passed by an earlier FCC.

Here's the problem, though. The primary argument against FCC regulations -- against government regulations of any sort -- is "the market will settle this." But that assumes healthy competition, which many people don't have. As the FCC's own research established, 78 percent of American households have access to only two land-based broadband providers, and 13 percent have only one option. Just 4 percent can pick from three different broadband services.

Yet the same FCC broadband plan that cited those dismal statistics offers few proposals to increase customer choice anytime soon, as I noted in a critical column last month. And most of the proposals that could increase customer choice -- such as "open access" rules adopted by many other countries that require broadband carriers to resell their capacity at wholesale rates -- would themselves get knocked out by this ruling's logic.

In a blog post this morning, Cecilia notes three possible next steps for the FCC. The commission could appeal the court's ruling -- but that might only prolong the inevitable. It could wait for Congress to pass a law explicitly authorizing it to write net-neutrality regulations -- though that would require Congress to agree and act, which seems to be a problem these days.

Or -- and here's where things could get interesting -- the FCC could move on its own to reclassify Internet providers as "Title II" common-carrier services, just like phone carriers. (Congress has lent the FCC different degrees of regulatory authority in different areas; for example, Title III of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, covers radio services and Title V addresses cable companies. There is no title governing Internet access.) Statements released after the ruling by FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael J. Copps backed that idea, while their colleagues Robert M. McDowell and Meredith A. Baker rejected it. (All links in previous sentence are PDF files; sorry, that's how the FCC site works.)

Lesser measures might solve this problem in the short run; for example, you could still bring a false-advertising case against Internet providers for not disclosing bandwidth caps or access restrictions, as this post on the Techdirt policy blog suggested yesterday. The FCC and other government bodies also have a decent track record at using public shaming to get telecom firms to change their act ... well, in particularly egregious cases.

In the long term, a Title II reclassification would have some logic and precedent on its side; phone companies' digital-subscriber-line connections fell into that category until the FCC reclassified them as "information services" in 2005. But that move would drive telecom firms crazy, subject the commission to a storm of lobbying, and could also bring jurisdictional and regulatory issues of its own.

Doing nothing, however, is not an option. When a broadband Internet connection can so easily substitute for wired phone service (or, with a greater degree of difficulty, for your TV service), it makes less and less sense to apply different regulations to one and the other. Either we should impose the same -- and, it's to be hoped, the simplest possible -- rules on land-based Internet and phone services, or we should deregulate both and hope for the best.

The history of telecom firms gives reason to worry about the second course of action; the history of unanticipated consequences of new government rules gives reason to doubt the first. But that's where the court's ruling leaves matters. And that's why Comcast may yet regret picking this fight.

What's your take? If you accept the court's ruling as a given, what would you have the feds do next?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 7, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Policy and politics , Telecom  
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Comments

Good post, Rob. This is a big and unsettling victory for corporate America. It's only a matter of time until we pay for usage sensitive Internet access - just like the old long distance telephony model.

Posted by: Brittman1 | April 7, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm of 2 minds on this issue. I don't want the government controlling access to the internet and I feel that this is what the current administration wants. On the other hand, the cable and telco industry doesn't have clean hands or intentions either. If I had to choose right now, it would be the marketplace as the lessor of 2 evils.

Posted by: treadlefish | April 7, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Clearly Congress needs to grant the FCC authority to regulate Internet services. I fear what Comcast and Verizon will do prior to that happening.

Posted by: fbcnova | April 7, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it would be that hard for the current majority party to 'encourage' Cox or Comcast, or both, (under threat of heavier regulation) to (voluntarily) limit, in some way, their customers' access to foxnews.com and similar sites.

Then, once the clear (and clearly legal, under this ruling) censorship is in place, the dominant party could 'accidentally' let it leak out that this was happening. Oops, now we have to put net neutrality regulations in place, because those darn $OtherParty are insisting on it!

Posted by: wiredog | April 7, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The market has done a good job so far. When it breaks, fix it. It has not broken yet. I would rather stake my future with a corrupt private sector than a corrupt public sector.

If you are one stuck with one broadband provider and that distresses you, move.

Rob, under the Washington Post's agreement with Apple for placement of its app in the iTunes store, Steve Jobs can pull it if the Post does a story about Apple he doesn't like. Why hasn't the Post objected to those terms?

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 7, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

What is the next? Enforcing the FCC to reach the goals that an elected government tries to establish. Easy. very easy.

Posted by: Vercinget333 | April 7, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Cecilla's post this morning indeed, was timely & informative. I'd like to see Congress get involved. Competition is needed in this market of only a handfull of players; bring back Open Access.

Posted by: Hattrik | April 7, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Democarcy is like that. Majority has to have enough ground to act while minorities rights have to be respected because some day they could be majority.

Posted by: Vercinget333 | April 7, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"...78 percent of American households have access to only two land-based broadband providers, and 13 percent have only one option. Just 4 percent can pick from three different broadband services."

The operative term being "land-based," i.e. wireline, not wireless.

The part of the FCC report that you excluded reads:

"There are other types of fixed broadband providers. For instance, satellite-based broadband service is available in most areas of the country from two providers, while hundreds of small fixed wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) offer service to more than 2 million people and Clearwire offers WiMAX service in a number of cities."

Posted by: millionea7 | April 7, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

@Bitter_Bill:

"The market has done a good job so far."


No it hasn't. Compared to what has it done a good job? Compared to nothing? That's a fair comparison...

How about compared to other countries?

http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/Images/commentarynews/broadbandspeedchart.jpg

We're barely holding off the Slovak Republic on internet speeds.

You see all the countries on the top of that list? Japan, Korea, Sweden, France, Netherlands?

All have public ISPs that provide FASTER SERVICE at a LOWER PRICE.

The free market has completely failed. It is completely broken.

So do you agree to fix it now?

Posted by: Gover | April 7, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

What to do next? Easy. When broadband delivers only half advertised speed, you have a situation like box of raisins marked, "Up to 1 lb." and that being legal. Only a half pound? As we said, "up to." The government should start by going after he ISPs on this issue. The market has failed us. It will continue to do so, and eventually you will be able to get only those web sites which pay a bribe to Comcast.

Posted by: george11 | April 7, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Excellent blog post. Comcast may tout itself as self-policing now, but it backpedaled on its policy only because it was uncertain at the time whether the FCC could and would crack down on such restrictive behavior. Now that the court has spoken, broadband access providers are likely to pull out all the stops in exercising favoritism towards certain types of customers and content. The unregulated marketplace is the far greater evil because there is little to no choice among such providers.

One way to increase consumer choice - and thus light a fire under Comcast and other Internet access providers - is to subsidize the deployment of competitive broadband networks. The National Broadband Plan contains proposals to slow and eventually stop the wasteful spending of consumer-financed subsidies on legacy copper networks and divert the funding toward programs aimed at increasing access to broadband service.

Reclassifying broadband access service as telecommunications service would not only allow the FCC to stop access providers from discriminating against certain types of customers and content, it would also expand the pool of available funding to be dedicated to enhancing consumer choice of broadband access providers.

Posted by: ruminant | April 7, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Lots of comments I'll get to later or address in a columnified version of the post, but I wanted to deal with this one now:

@Bitter_Bill: I've never seen whatever agreement the Post signed with Apple, but I would assume it's the standard developer agreement I wrote about here last month. I don't see anything in that about yanking an app to punish unfriendly coverage. What's your source on this?

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 7, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

To me, this statistic said it all: "78 percent of American households have access to only two land-based broadband providers, and 13 percent have only one option. Just 4 percent can pick from three different broadband services."

There is no technological reason for that. It is entirely regulatory. In the 1990s, when the wires that delivered most Internet service were regulated as "telecommunications services," consumers could choose between literally THOUSANDS of Internet Service Providers -- real market competition.

The fact of the matter is, the government sanctions the cable and phone monopolies. Not just any old person can start laying wire down anywhere they choose. The cable and phone telecom giants benefit from this -- making money hand over fist. As a result, there need to be rules in place preventing them from deciding what is and isn't going to be allowed to transmit over those wires.

Posted by: orftc | April 7, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Cable, phone line, any kind of wired access to private property requires the granting of public easements to access the land to bury the infrastructure.

What kind of 'common carrier' rights does the public maintain for granting those easements in this day and age?

Posted by: JkR- | April 7, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I'm getting "less than the full Internet" if the bandwidth on the neighborhood's shared cable is being disproportionately sucked up by one user. If one is complaining about slow internet speeds, then one should support the efforts of the ISPs to restrain their biggest bandwidth hogs. Why should my ISP fees go to subsidize BitTorrent users?

Posted by: tomtildrum | April 7, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Beleive it folks, right now the Internet is free, but once the Government is thru with it it WILL COST ALL OF US TO USE THE INTERNET. The Government has been trying for years to make money from the Internet and force us all to pay for it with their new form of regulations.

Posted by: Seestang69 | April 7, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Internet, like other utilities, is vital to the public. The government needs the power to properly monitor it so as to safeguard public access and fight fraud. This same public role also applies to financial markets, insurers, drug makers, mining companies, and on down the line. Do you Republic Party ideologues REALLY trust business to always be honest and do the ethical thing? If not, that's why we have LAWS and REGULATIONS.

Posted by: mongolovesheriff | April 7, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"Why should my ISP fees go to subsidize BitTorrent users?"

Excellent question, tomtildrum.

I can't wait to hear Google's critique of "search neutrality" or other quid pro quo regulatory retaliation if net neutrality becomes law.

Posted by: millionea7 | April 7, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

@Bitter_Bill:
"The market has done a good job so far."

No it hasn't. Compared to what has it done a good job? Compared to nothing? That's a fair comparison...
How about compared to other countries?
http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/Images/commentarynews/broadbandspeedchart.jpg
We're barely holding off the Slovak Republic on internet speeds.
You see all the countries on the top of that list? Japan, Korea, Sweden, France, Netherlands?
All have public ISPs that provide FASTER SERVICE at a LOWER PRICE.
The free market has completely failed. It is completely broken.
So do you agree to fix it now?
Posted by: Gover | April 7, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse
Well then quit doing what you do best NOTHING and get a few friends together and build a fiber network. There’s nothing stopping you other than you don’t have 5 billion dollars but I’m sure you and the rest of the LIBS and pull your resources together and come up with the initial investment. People like you love complaining but never have a solution. NEVER. It’s always What about me.

Posted by: askgees | April 7, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I like the ruling. The less FCC involvement the better.

Posted by: hit4cycle | April 7, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"Do you trust business to always be honest and do the ethical thing? If not, that's why we have LAWS and REGULATIONS."

Maybe you have not been keeping up with current events... but regulations don't work. Govt involvement prevents the necessary market clearing. All regulations and subsidies accomplish is erecting barriers to market entry and keeping dinosaurs from going extinct, i.e. AIG, GM, BAC, C, GSEs, someday Comcast.

LET COMCAST FAIL.

Posted by: millionea7 | April 7, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

If I use more water, my water bill goes up. If I use more electricity or gas, my BGE bill goes up. If those two utilities were forced to provide unlimited water, gas or electricity, some people would surely abuse the privilege. All services should be metered and paid for by usage or the few heavy users will ride the backs (and wallets and cell towers) of the many.

Posted by: thw2001 | April 7, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the imperative to fix something that's not broken. There has really been only one clear example of ISP blocking of a service, Madison River blocking VoIP services in 2005. The FCC fined then $15K (http://www.fcc.gov/eb/Orders/2005/DA-05-543A2.html) and the practice ended.

The Comcast example is not a good one; they did what they did to block bandwidth hogging by P2P users in violation of their agreements. As soon as Comcast had a better, more general method of throttling bandwidth hogs they switched to it.

ISPs really aren't out there looking for ways to make things less convenient for their users or to increase support costs.

The answer to this supposed problem is to let the vendors fight it out, which they have been doing.

Posted by: lseltzer | April 7, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

@treadlefish:
You want the marketplace to decide? It already did with Comcast throttling peoples usage for no good reason. There is no 'marketplace' when there are only 1-2 providers of service for a location.

@thw2001:
Your comparison of Internet access to water bills and electric bills isn't valid. Both Water and electricity have physical inputs that are finite resources; water and power fuel respectively.

Internet content has no such physical fuel so there is no limit as to how much can be provided. The only limit is how much can be provided 'right now'; i.e. bandwidth. ISPs have sold everyone 'unlimited access' and now have the problem of providing unlimited access. Obviously that is a problem, but one of their own making.

Further, in order to limit usage, they propose (and Comcast has done) saying that if you buy movies from someone else they will make it slower than if you buy it from them. See the conflict of interest there?

If they are the provider of access, they should not also be able to offer 'content'. Without regulation, Net Neutrality, too much opportunity exists for the content/access provider to make their competitors content harder to get and that's simply unfair.

Posted by: rpixley220 | April 7, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Thank god for this ruling. ISP's have every right to keep bittorrent freeloaders from slowing down the internet for the rest of us (read: add latency or "lag" to a connection).

BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer filesharing (Limewire, etc.) uses a huge amount of upload bandwidth. However, all consumer broadband connections assume alot of downloading and a much smaller amount of uploading. It only takes a few greedy music/movie pirates to completely saturate the upload allocation for a given node of cable broadband.

This is why if you're in a typical suburb serviced by Comcast, Time Warner, Roadrunner, etc. your evening or weekend internet surfing often comes to a dead crawl. All because some kid in your subdivision is uploading "Avatar" to all of his torrent friends.

This ruling has no effect if you are a "normal" user, i.e. all you do is mainly download. Your Hulu, YouTube, Netflix traffic is not affected as that is 95% download and 5% or less upload (i.e. telling the server what you want to see).

Even online gaming unaffected. The amount of uploading done by Xbox Live or Playstation network is a small fraction of what a movie-sharing pirate sends. In fact, by punishing heavy uploaders, the ISP controls should help reduce lag during your gaming.

Bottom line: If you're not a music or movie pirate, you are not affected by this ruling or the traffic controls that the ruling affects.

Posted by: taskforceken | April 7, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The obvious isn't apparently too obvious for that court. The Internet providers are against any plan that might even remotely bite into their profit margins. Perhaps corporate America should try working with the government instead of against it. True, the bonus plans of Internet provider's executives might suffer - but then they might look at life and see what the rest of us see.

Posted by: George2010 | April 7, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

"Cable, phone line, any kind of wired access to private property requires the granting of public easements to access the land to bury the infrastructure.

What kind of 'common carrier' rights does the public maintain for granting those easements in this day and age?

Posted by: JkR- | April 7, 2010 2:17 PM"

as a Comcast customer(it's either them or Verizon)in a multi-dwelling locale, I've often wondered that.

Posted by: Hattrik | April 7, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

@taskforceken wrote:
"Bottom line: If you're not a music or movie pirate, you are not affected by this ruling or the traffic controls that the ruling affects."
.
Online gaming *is* affected. Patches and updates that are many 100s of MBs can and are distributed via bitorrent.
.
Linux ISO downloads are provided via bitorrent.
.
There are *plenty* of valid uses for the technology. The 'problem' is that Comcast and other ISPs sold everyone 'unlimited' access. Well, guess what, unlimited is, well, unlimited.
.
I will agree that perhaps something should be done, but arbitrary throttling of a protocol because some people abuse it is not the answer.
.
More importantly, how do you *know* that the data being transmitted via bitorrent is anything other than legal content? Is it fair to throttle someone's legal sharing of video?

Posted by: rpixley220 | April 7, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Not one poster here has it right yet. The Internet was paid for in full by the taxpayers as a DOD project so you already own it and the corporations simply have license to provide access for a fee to your own property. Secondly, every last dollar of infrastructure provided by every ISP was bought and paid for by you as users of their access provision to your own property. Now, the republican court has ordered you to pay what ever the provider wants for what ever access he decides you deserve for his service. In other words, you have been robbed again by the republican to big to fail business model. Mull these thoughts over as the Bush oil mafia drives you to bankruptcy with over 4$ a gallon gas as you try to drive to the apartment you had to rent because the to big to fail republican financial model took your house as they gave your job to a non English speaking country. Your afraid of Obama then you must have been asleep when the damage was done by Ronnie and the Bushes. Face it, you been had by the laughing Limbaughs.

Posted by: anOPINIONATEDsob | April 7, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

This ruling had nothing to do with the merits of net neutrality, it was about jurisdiction of who governs the net. The courts just said the FCC hadn't been given the authority to make such rules. Think about it....if ten years ago we would have said the government needs to regulate and manage the internet, we'd all be up in arms screaming "NO NO NO". Congress can give the FCC that authority, or simply makes the rule themselves (yikes!) This is a new area of legal precedence, so the verdict was not surprising.

Service providers currently have the ability manage their networks, to charge data hogs more for usage, or slow down their file transfers, so not to hinder other network traffic. Anyone who has managed a network knows that there are constraints and costs. This ruling just allows them to manage their networks. Charging data spewing websites more or slowing down their traffic benefits the average Web user. Otherwise such web users impose a disproportionate cost on the service providers, which is spread over everyone if absolute net neutrality is in place.

So when you say you're for net neutrality, be careful what you ask for. Legitimate rules should be put in place, but need to be widely vetted. And I prefer looser rules than tighter rules..and with minimal government involvement.

Posted by: eeterrific | April 7, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

anOPINIONATEDsob you haven't a clue. You obviously have no network background, no true knowledge of arpanet, have no idea of the massive amounts of money ISPs have put into building the internet.

Pray tell me....what is MAEWest? Or MAEEast? If you can't answer off the top of your head, then you are classified as clueless.

Its obvious you've never managed networks, and have no idea what goes into building one. Your comment cannot be taken seriously by anyone familiar with network technology.

You're merely spewing opinions based on some bogus political agenda.

Posted by: eeterrific | April 7, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the Post app, my source is the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, Section 8 -- Revocation, first sentence. The agreement I use is an unofficial one uncovered by the EFF http://www.eff.org/files/20100302_iphone_dev_agr.pdf .

It appears to permit yanking or crippling (ceasing distribution of related information) of an app for any reason, including, say, unfavorable reviews.

Dan Gillmor has made similar queries to NYT, WSJ, and USA Today regarding the iPad but has heard nothing. That got me thinking about the Post app. And neutrality.

http://twitter.com/dangillmor/status/11646664409

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 7, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

The very first sentence of this article is inaccurate. The court did not "saw off" the FCC's authority; it merely pointed out that the Commission was never granted the authority to micromanage Internet providers' networks to begin with. This is a good thing. Administrative agencies tend to reach beyond their delegated powers, and need to be reminded of the limits of those powers. And the rules which the FCC had proposed to make were onerous, catering to the whims of one corporation -- Google -- at the expense of all of the rest of us. This decision will give the Commission pause and hopefully cause it to reconsider imposing such unnecessary regulation when it has many more things on its plate that really need doing (special access reform, for example).

Posted by: LBrettGlass | April 8, 2010 1:43 AM | Report abuse

even if dod developed the internet, whose money did they use????
taxpayers, mine...networks are private property, if you want preferred access pay for it, stop this socialist trend of mandating equal outcome for everyone, truly needy will always get help, yet 50% of households no longer pay federal income taxes, how is this fair when they use more services than those who do pay taxes, stop destroying what made this country unique and attractive for those opposing totalitarian rule

Posted by: michaelhunt277 | April 8, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

And here I am again (after junking the spam ad from the bozo who thinks cute ASCII art will help his cause). Responses to comments are in the order you all posted them...

@treadlefish: What makes you think the current administration wants to "control access to the Internet"?

@millionea7: Have you talked to people who use satellite access? The ones who've shared their experiences here don't like it much at all.

@tomtildrum: What if your bandwidth is getting sucked up by a neighbor downloading a large but badly needed Service Pack for Windows? What if another neighbor only checks e-mail and resents having to pay for your higher use? Thing is, people prefer flat-rate access; the market has spoken pretty consistently on this point.

@Seestang69: The Internet is free now? I must be using the wrong provider--mine charges me $49.99 a month for it. Can I ask who you're using?

@taskforceken: You only cited cable-modem providers in your comment, which reminded me that it only seems to be cable ISPs that are talking about bandwidth caps and traffic management. (My Fios connection works about as fast at any time of the day.) Why do you think that is so?

@anOPINIONATEDsob: Sorry, you're wrong. The government built the first prototypes of the Internet, but--as @eeterrific notes--private enterprises took over decades ago.

@Bitter_Bill: You're positing an interpretation without offering any proof of it. By the same logic, you could say the agreement allows Apple to yank an application released by a company that employs a right-handed tech columnist who roots for a lousy baseball team. But you don't need to crawl that far out on a limb to critique Apple's stewardship of the App Store; we already know that the company can reject or evict apps for poorly-documented reasons and that developers resent that unfair treatment, as I wrote in my first-look blog post on Saturday.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 8, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Great precis. Great moderation.

Posted by: featheredge99 | April 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Been away fr/ news for a day. The wonderful NYT barely covered the subject. Heard about the ruling when KQED SF radio ran a discussion show. Is it possible that the various media are talking to each other about this with an eye toward future net configuration and interaction between MSM and new media? Hope this doesn't sound too conspiratorial. Made sure to take off tin hat before writing.

Posted by: featheredge99 | April 8, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Rob, if you see this comment:

Reading thru the user comments on this and on any thing Cecilia Kang has written on Net Neutrality/Open Internet, it's clear to me that about 50% of the people (that's the uniformed, anti-government people) have NO idea whatsoever what we're talking about here. The "government will decide what you can or cannot see on the internet" crowd frustrates my sensibilities.

Based on what you read here among those commenters, it's clear to me that you and Cecilia need to - particularly on-line where there are no space restrictions - specifically spell out what proposed policies mean in average man langauge. And do so time after time after time after time.

e.g.: Proposed Open Internet rules have nothing to do with government control of what people see online. Instead, the proposed rules to prohibit anyone - government or ISPs - from using content-based factors in how they management their networks and provide informaiton to consumers.

Over and over and over again until the thick-headed among our citizeny actually get it.

Posted by: Hawaiiexpat | April 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

@Hawaiiexpat:
See Andrew Alexander's Sunday Ombudsman column for proposals about how the Post might better moderate online comments. He posted an update on the subject with his column today.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | April 8, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

It is alarming that net neutrality, or lack thereof, is not a bigger issue than it should be. As far as I understand it, this latest ruling right now pretty much dictates that the ISP's can censor access to any website they deem whatever: inappropriate, illegal, etc. This is huge. We as Americans are loosing more and more civil liberties as days go by, it all starting with the Patriot Act. The internet is hands down the most important thing ever to be collectively created by man. And I fear what we are seeing is a dark age in the age of information. If I remember correctly, I live in America, not China. WTF. And people will say, isn't this good? The government doesn't have their hands in this. The point of the fact is, if no one stands up to someone like Comcast, they are going to do whatever they want, and you better believe that. They do not have a trustworthy track record whatsoever.

Posted by: BMACattack | April 8, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Even online gaming unaffected. The amount of uploading done by Xbox Live or Playstation network is a small fraction of what a movie-sharing pirate sends. In fact, by punishing heavy uploaders, the ISP controls should help reduce lag during your gaming.

Bottom line: If you're not a music or movie pirate, you are not affected by this ruling or the traffic controls that the ruling affects.

Posted by: taskforceken | April 7, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

This is the most false thing written on this blog. What happens when Comcast buys NBC? They are going to block access to Hulu because they don't make money off of the content that it streams. taskforceken, you are the kind of sheep that asks, why is this happening, as the sh*t hits the fan. go back to sleep with the rest of america guy.

Posted by: BMACattack | April 8, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

The Feds are not bright enough to appeal this decision; because they are happy with the decision. Get it? This is what the government wanted all along; they only pretend to be on the side of us peasants to keep themselves in power. Anything this Administration does is pure, unadulterated, pompous political theater. It is the government that has provided the MSM the clout they now hold over us. It is not rocket science.

Posted by: techresmgt | April 8, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

"What happens when Comcast buys NBC? They are going to block access to Hulu because they don't make money off of the content that it streams."

If that were true, why doesn't Comcast block Hulu now?

Posted by: tomtildrum | April 9, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"What happens when Comcast buys NBC? They are going to block access to Hulu because they don't make money off of the content that it streams."

If that were true, why doesn't Comcast block Hulu now?

Posted by: tomtildrum | April 9, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

They can if they want, that's why this is a huge issue. Also, Comcast does not own NBC yet, and currently, NBC has a deal with Hulu to stream their content on that site. So, there you go.

Posted by: BMACattack | April 9, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

@taskforceken

You say that only pirates will be impacted, and that isn't true.

Online gaming is starting to use bittorrent as a distribution platform for patches and more. All World of Warcraft patches start out as a bittorrent download first, until someone else on the internet uploads it as a direct download. Even the game itself is downloaded online through BitTorrent now, directly from Blizzard.

Entropia Universe also uses bittorrent to distribute the game client, as do hundreds of other indie game makers, so they don't have as much strain on their website. Dwarf Fortress released an update, and within an hour there were 2 torrents to reduce strain, and still the site was not working properly for 24 hours.

So saying that only pirates will be the ones feeling the hurt is completely wrong.

Posted by: raptorjedi | April 10, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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