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Court Unfriendly To FCC's Internet Slap At Comcast 215

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the unchecked-authority-generally-bad dept.
Several sources are reporting that federal judges have been harsh in their examination of the FCC's action against Comcast in 2008 for the throttling of Internet traffic from high-bandwidth file-sharing services. "'You can't get an unbridled, roving commission to go about doing good,' said US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Chief Judge David Sentelle during an oral argument. The three-judge panel grilled FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick on the parts of communications law it could cite to justify the Comcast punishment. The FCC argues that it was enforcing an open Internet policy implicit in the law. Judge A. Raymond Randolph repeatedly said the legal provisions cited by the FCC were mere policy statements that by themselves can't justify the commission's action. 'You have yet to identify a specific statute,' he said. The judges' decision in the case could throw into question the FCC's authority to impose open Internet rules."
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Court Unfriendly To FCC's Internet Slap At Comcast

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  • Just Pass a Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimbolauski (882977) on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:51PM (#30699788) Journal
    So all that needs to happen is a law must be passed. I can't wait to see how many pages it will take to say NO THROTTLING!
  • No Suprise here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:51PM (#30699796)

    Both Judges have a history of defending big buisness. This comes as no suprise that they would rule in favor of corporate interest.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:52PM (#30699806) Homepage
    Just because something is good policy doesn't mean a given implementation of it is legal. This is the reverse of the common rule that stupid laws aren't necessarily unconstitutional. The solution here is to get Congress to pass explicit net neutrality legislation. Unfortunately, the last such attempt died a gooey death.
  • Re:No Suprise here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:55PM (#30699862)

    Well, depends on the corporate. Media companies love neutrality because then they don't have to pay ISPs to get full speed. ISPs hate it becuase they don't want to be dumb content providers, and want more money.

    Consumer interest is pretty obviously on the neutrality side*, but there are corporate interests on both sides. Think Google.

    * The real solution is actual competition on the part of ISPs but that'll be a cold day in Hell before it happens in the US.

  • Re:Just Pass a Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FlightTest (90079) on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:55PM (#30699872) Homepage

    After all the unrelated pork-barrel is added? Thousands of pages, I'm sure.

  • Re:Just Pass a Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:56PM (#30699890)

    I can't wait to see how many pages it will take to say NO THROTTLING!

    I'm curious too. Let me go ask the lobbyists who draft our legislation.

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:03PM (#30699988) Homepage

    A proper net neutrality law is long overdue. I don't want ISPs to ever be allowed to block any content, cripple any protocols, or artificially slow down any kind of traffic beyond whatever is necessary to ensure reliable service for all customers alike. A ruling against the FCC on its own ruling against Comcast would cause significant injury to US broadband users, and that's why we need some kind of legislation outside of FCC rules that will ensure ISPs such as Comcast can't cripple customers' connections. Pro-corporate judges then won't have a leg to stand on.

  • Re:No Suprise here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:03PM (#30700000) Homepage

    Actually, the real real solution is probably a publicly owned utility handling telecom and ISP, because publicly owned utilities have a history of giving better prices and service than their private counterparts for doing similar jobs.

    Yes, there are corporate interests on the side of Net Neutrality, but they probably aren't media companies, for a couple of key reasons:
    1. A lot of media companies have business ties to ISPs. Time Warner in particular is guilty of this.
    2. If they pay the extra to ISPs, they gain an advantage over any upstart competitors. It produces a significant barrier to entry for, say, a successful blogger or independent news site.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:04PM (#30700012) Homepage Journal

    if there is no precedent regarding a policy, it is not only legal tradition but global practice to rule in favor of public interest.

    this is what precisely those fscking judges should have done. they have not. their approach little different than parroting corporate interests' statements.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:07PM (#30700058)

    if there is no precedent regarding a policy, it is not only legal tradition but global practice to rule in favor of public interest.

    this is what precisely those fscking judges should have done. they have not. their approach little different than parroting corporate interests' statements.

    In the U.S., if there is no law authorizing the Administration (the FCC is part of the Administration) to take an action, it is illegal for the Administration to take said action.

  • by Coolhand2120 (1001761) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:07PM (#30700060)
    So the FCC can't rule by fiat? They should ask the EPA how they get to rule by fiat! Only seems fair.
  • Re:Just Pass a Law (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NickFortune (613926) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:17PM (#30700192) Homepage Journal

    What if I want to pay for a 'lazy' broadband package, where I agree to be throttled when the network is loaded, in exchange for better throughput when things are less busy?

    Cool. What were you going to do if you wanted a package where your packets don't get throttled by third party providers with whom you have no direct financial agreement relationship?

  • Re:No Suprise here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:18PM (#30700202) Homepage

    Both Judges have a history of defending big buisness. This comes as no suprise that they would rule in favor of corporate interest.

    Actually, they are ruling in the favor of law. Just because you happen to agree with the FCC doesn't make what they did right.

    Imagine the FCC thought throttling was fine, and created policies that punished content providers who didn't properly mark their high-bandwidth traffic. You'd be begging the court for relief for this exact same decision instead of calling them corporate shills.

    Even though throttling is bad, the FCC making up their own rules as they go along is worse.

  • Re:Just Pass a Law (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:26PM (#30700322) Journal

    What if I want to pay for a 'lazy' broadband package, where I agree to be throttled when the network is loaded, in exchange for better throughput when things are less busy?

    If it works the same way as the health care reform legislation then you'll be limited to choosing a list of internet packages that were pre-approved by the FCC or some other Federal bureaucracy. This may or may not include one that meets your needs and provides you with the most value for your hard earned money.

  • by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Friday January 08, 2010 @04:31PM (#30700380)

    Because who defines 'good'? Giving a branch of government unbridled power to do 'good' one day gives them that same unbridled power to do something you vehemently oppose the next, and now they would have the legal precedent to do so.

    You can't have a short term view of the law as a judge, and while it might not make them popular in the short run I'd rather our freedom be protected by forcing us to have our elected representatives pass a law for something we want (their entire job), rather then give a branch of our government unbridled power because they happen to be acting in our favor today.

    Think about this, the FCC decided on their policy with little to no input from the citizens, and little to no recourse from the citizens. You can't vote FCC workers out of office. What would your view of the legality of what they just did be if they had come down on the completely other side of the issue and were punishing companies that didn't throttle p2p networks in the name of stopping piracy for 'public interest' but had no written law mandated or approved by our representatives to tell them or give them the power to do so?

    You can't judge legality of a government organization's actions based on whether you think what they are doing is good, you judge legality based on whether they have the legal right to acting in the way they are according to the constitutions and laws set forth by congress.

  • Re:No Suprise here (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gangien (151940) on Friday January 08, 2010 @05:17PM (#30700956) Homepage

    AH oh, here we go again.

    You're right, big government is the solution. Government in control is what we need. This is perfect. Instead of letting competition decide who wins, we let government hurrah!!!!

    Do people not understand how capitalism works? And no, we don't have a capitalistic system in the US, we have big corporations and unions who get legislature passed, that is the exact opposite of capitalism. But the solution isn't to just go hogwild with stupid regulations that hinder improvement and innovation and meanwhile don't even achieve the results they desire?

    and moreover, what are we btihcing about? throttling? geez. you know what? i had comcast, i started to hate them, they are incompetent(beyond throttling), so you know what i did? I did my business elsewhere. And don't tell me there aren't other options, because there are in almost all cases, other options.

    The solution is rather simple, get rid of almost all regulations on business. Let individuals decide what their choices are and where to go. Let people vote in the best way, with our dollars, on what services are good, and what are bad. But nope, won't be done, all those regulations are supposed to help right? hahahahaha. they rarely help, and even when they do it's a short term, and in the long term are much worse for the consumer. The worst thing to do is judge legislation by it's intentions rather than it's results. Which is what we always do. At some point we'll learn freedom of choice, really does work. Well, we'll learn it again, we used to know it back in the 1700's and 1800's and even into the early 1900's. Which were our most productive times, but ah well. Hell, as recently as the 50's we had decent medical care, and shockingly, there was little regulation and government involvement.

    Socialism does not work. Even in cases like this, where you want it to. The only exceptions, are literally where there are no other alternatives, but those cases are few and far between. And i'll put my mod prediction in the last part so no one will read it, either this post gets ignored or modded down, never know tho, occasionally some 'kook' libertarian posts do get modded up.

  • by copponex (13876) on Friday January 08, 2010 @05:40PM (#30701278) Homepage

    The reason corporations are a terrible idea for basic services is because of two issues: incentive and accountability.

    When a corporation owns a basic service, the question is, "How much is the customer willing to pay?" The question when run by a local (meaning, city or county) government is, "How much does it cost to provide?" The incentive for a corporation is always to make the most amount of money possible. If there were no regulation or public utilities, America would look like South America, where a company can make a good profit providing services to the rich, and ignore everyone else. This leads to widespread poverty and income inequality, since you can't do any self-investment when most of your day is spent lugging water or kerosene or wood around for cooking, cleaning, etc.

    The second question is of accountability. Corporations simply don't have to have any accountability towards individual customers. Sure, you can sue a company - if you happen to also employ dozens of lawyers and have a few million stashed away, you may have a fighting chance. When a very local entity is running the show, chances are you know the person in charge. They aren't hundreds or thousands of miles away in the top floor of some high security skyscraper - they're downtown, and you know some of the people who know them.

    This method breaks down in large metropolitan areas if they aren't further divided into neighborhood councils. They work best when the board members running the utility can be voted out directly by the local populace.

    The decision on what is and what is not a utility is an important one. Competition gives us good results in luxuries and commodities, since there are so many customers, and getting screwed on a dozen eggs or a TV isn't the end of the world. However, when the customers have no other options, and it's too expensive to duplicate services, locally controlled organizations are a great option. Better to make the internet a utility with 100% saturation - just like roads and electricity - and allow competitors to provide services over that platform.

    PS All your privacy concerns are moot when the NSA is building NOCs inside of corporate datacenters already.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 08, 2010 @05:42PM (#30701308)
    You must be in college because any adult has already figured out that that Ayn Rand shit is a bunch of crap for teenagers who think the world is black and white.
  • Re:Just Pass a Law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NickFortune (613926) on Friday January 08, 2010 @06:57PM (#30702250) Homepage Journal

    If the internet ends up crippled, people will promptly build a new one, with hookers and blackjack.

    "Promptly" in this context meaning after twenty years of investing in infrastructure that was already largely paid for by government subsidy anyway, I take it.

    My point is that as a customer, I don't ever expect to have to do much about it, except maybe put up with no internet for short periods of time (by which I mean, when I switch to the competent ISP, and the only reason any waiting would be involved is the stupid way that the last mile is regulated in the United States).

    OK, you have low expectations when it comes to corporate ethics. I can see how that might happen.

    Thing is, that still doesn't mean that letting third party ISPs play "Stand And Deliver" with your data is a good thing. And it still doesn't mean we should accept arbitrary surcharges to a service for which we have already paid, from parties with whom we have no direct financial arrangement.

  • Re:Just Pass a Law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday January 08, 2010 @07:12PM (#30702440)
    Well, you could have a second ISP/account for that. It is a worry that once the preferred packed for ISPs becomes tiered, non-neutral, or otherwise funky that the telcom companies would offer only a minor discount for low quality connections and bend you over and rape you for high-quality connections similar to the "standard" internet service we have now. And if the pricing structure for text messeging is any example, then I wouldn't trust the telcom companies with any power at all. In a perfect world, charging different rates for different quality isn't a bad thing, but the culteral setup of those in power makes this a terrifying prospect.

    But ideally, I'd like 3 different accounts:
    1. Cheap-ass, slow, flaky, interpretable, but uncapped connection for my casual downloading. Stuff I set up and let run overnight. Pay scales per gig over a set period of time.
    2. Quick response, high priority, no dropped packets, with a bandwidth of... whatever I need at the time for gaming and voip. Paid per byte per level of bandwidth. And I limited to X bytes every minute.
    3. High bandwidth, intermittent connection for burst communications. ie, web-browsing. I don't want the connection all that often, but when I ask for it I want it all right now.

    But as I said, this is an ideal scenario where we accurately pay for what we need. But this model wouldn't encourage telcom companies to lay down more lines. It would encourage them to limit supply so people pay extra.

    I would like some sort of quality metrics and contractual agreements instead of the vuage promise to get something between 0Mps and 5Mos I have now.
    But I understand your original message that Comcast throttled ALL P2P connections over their lines regardless of who paid for what and so all of this entirely beside the point.
  • by copponex (13876) on Friday January 08, 2010 @08:24PM (#30703170) Homepage

    I can cite dozens of studies for either side, but most are older and not publicly available - just summarized in reports. Or you could order copies of the Journal of Regulatory Economics if you're really into it, and read such fascinating works as "24/7 Hourly Response to Electricity Real-Time Pricing with up to Eight Summers of Experience," which is actually not bad, and shows how realtime pricing information affects electricity usage in a positive way for conservation and usage. Then the author is labeled a socialist or a nazi, organizational bias is claimed, and everyone slings mud until no one can see.

    The larger point to get across is that you need to start from scratch when considering the philosophical implications of something as major as the next communication platform, and also be mindful of real world examples.

    Business isn't bad at everything. It's just poorly suited to provide necessary services. This is why democratic governance exists - it' supposed to be an entity based on the will of the populace based on the merit and moral nature of their arguments, not on the size of their wallets. It's why the legal system isn't (well, supposed to be) based on class or birth. It fails to be perfect, but you'll notice that the closer a government is to these ideals, the better the society is in general. Once you get close to the line of basing access to basic needs on dollars alone, you are stating that a human's only value is monetary.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday January 08, 2010 @09:19PM (#30703638) Homepage Journal

    I don't want ISPs to ever be allowed to block any content, cripple any protocols, or artificially slow down any kind of traffic beyond whatever is necessary to ensure reliable service for all customers alike.

    Neither does nearly anybody else. In a real market, the likes of Comcast's blocking would be quickly eliminated by competition. The problem is the governments grant monopolies, forcing certain corporations upon pockets of citizenry.

    So, we need to stop patching bad law with more bad law and start fixing root-cause problems.

  • Re:No Suprise here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kalriath (849904) on Friday January 08, 2010 @10:10PM (#30703982)

    If local government were to seize ownership and operation of the physical network layer -- the cabling and routing -- from the phone and cable companies under eminent domain, then any company that wanted to sell ISP, VOIP or TVIP service could do so by paying the city a simple access fee to use the public network infrastructure. We could stop wasting money running redundant cables to everyone's house, we could stop letting service providers leverage their networks to strongarm customers with unfair policies, and we could stop letting them use their existing regional monopolies to lock out competition and cherry pick their customers.

    You do realise that a government ever actually invoking that right (and I can guarantee that they have laws stating specific circumstances under which it can be used) would cause a drastic loss of confidence in ability to do business in such an area and undoubtedly result in economic disaster right? No government in it's right might would ever seize the core assets of a business in such a fashion. Keep dreaming.

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