Court Support for FCC Net Neutrality Rules Keeps Drawing Crowd

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Groups continue to weigh in in wake of decision

Both sides of the debate over the FCC's network neutrality rules continued to weigh in Tuesday several hours after the Title II-based Open Internet order was upheld in its entirety by a D.C. federal court.

The court said it was not weighing in on whether the FCC should have done what it did, only that it exercised its authority reasonably, not violating the constitution or procedural safeguards, while sufficiently explaining and justifying why it did what it did.

"We are pleased that the FCC's open internet order has been upheld," said Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch. "We have long supported the FCC's efforts to protect an open internet, which is essential for driving innovation and empowering consumer choice."

So was the Writers Guild of America, West.

“WGAW applauds today’s D.C. Circuit Court decision to uphold the FCC’s rules for an Open Internet," the group said. "The years of hard work with our coalition partners have paid off. The reclassification of broadband Internet access service under Title II of the Communications Act is necessary to prohibit discriminatory and anticompetitive behavior on the part of Internet service providers that face little competition and hold tremendous gatekeeper power.”

Consumer Watchdog encouraged the FCC to now focus on broadband privacy regs. The FCC's assumed oversight over broadband CPNI (customer proprietary network information, like what sites they surf) from the Federal Trade Commission when it reclassified ISPs as common carriers under the new net neutrality regs.

“The court has recognized that the internet has become so essential to our daily lives that broadband internet access providers should be regulated as a utility,” said John Simpson, privacy project director for Consumer Watchdog.

“Now the FCC must enact key privacy rules to protect consumers… Broadband privacy regulations are a necessary first step and will protect consumers from abuses by their ISP and must be enacted as soon as possible,” said Simpson. “ISPs have a unique position and can see everything a consumer does online.”

“Today’s decision is a victory for consumers, free expression, and the core principles on which the internet was created. The Court made the right decision in affirming the FCC’s decision on reclassification of internet broadband services, providing the best path forward for advancement of consumer choice, access, and privacy rights,” said Lisa Hayes, Center for Democracy and Technology VP for programs and strategy.

Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), was anything but pleased.

"We agree that our nation best thrives with a free, competitive and open internet. But the FCC's rules upheld today do not ensure competition, investment and innovation," he said. "The reclassification to Title II imposes new barriers to innovation, such as requesting permission from the government for new services, and thus compromises the internet's potential to create new businesses, connect us across borders and provide anytime/anywhere access."

The National Association of Manufacturers, agreed. NAM senior VP Linda Kelly said the decision "creates uncertainty for manufacturers and is a major disincentive to investment in this essential infrastructure." She said NAM "will continue to fight the FCC’s misguided policy—in the courts and in Congress."

Protect Internet Freedom national director Drew Johnson called it a loss for consumers as well as industry.

“Today’s ruling stunningly upholds Obamanet and ignores heavy-handed coercion from the White House on a regulatory agency that is supposed to be independent," he said. "The FCC rules upheld today sends a message of hypocrisy to the global internet community, as the U.S. does one thing within its borders and argues for the very opposite abroad."

Scott Cleland, chairman of NetCompetition, an ISP-backed group, saw "big problems" with the decision.

“The court’s decision appears to effectively grant an FCC majority of three unelected commissioners with largely unfettered power to arbitrarily pick winners and losers in the competitive communications and Internet marketplaces without much administrative due process, explanation, justification, evidence or reasoned analysis," he said. 

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), whose members were included in the FCC's latest attempt to regulate broadband access, was "extremely disappointed."

"WISPA's small business owners continue to be steadfast in our commitment to building out rural America,” said WISPA president Alex Phillips, “but the added Title II compliance costs and greater litigation risks for small businesses will raise the cost of Internet service and complicate the goal of expanding broadband access. It will harm low-income and rural consumers and reduce needed competition.”

“By upholding the FCC’s net neutrality rules, three unelected commissioners are essentially transforming an entire industry—in this case the Internet—from an innovative, lightly regulated enterprise that made huge investments into this country, into a public utility subject to the whims of regulators," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior VP Bill Kovacs.

“The net neutrality decision today further proves that Congress must enact legislation such as the Regulatory Accountability Act that provides structural reforms to prevent agencies from imposing such sweeping and investment-killing regulations like the Open Internet Order without transparency and accountability," Kovacs said.

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