Money & Business

Net Neutrality Ruling Draws Strong Response From Industry, Activist Groups

By / Jan 15, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Telecom groups emphasized that an appeals court decision striking down an FCC rule requiring net neutrality would not change the way they do business online. But others saw the ruling as a threat to an open internet operating on a level playing field.

It was a decision that, much like the internet itself, gave rise to many voices.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit yesterday struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called net neutrality rules, which required that internet service providers (ISPs) treat all web traffic equally. The ruling, which opens the door for ISPs to charge customers and content providers for faster access to websites and services,  drew strong reactions—including concerns about whether the internet’s open nature would change because ISPs would give priority to content from companies that pay a premium for faster service and whether the decision would lead to higher costs for both consumers and tech companies.

The ruling opens the door for internet service providers to charge customers and content providers for faster access to websites and services.

Industry and activist groups had varying takes on the decision, which arose from a lawsuit brought by Verizon. Read on for some highlights.

Technology Groups

Internet Association: In a statement on the ruling, President and CEO Michael Beckerman said his group plans to use the ruling as an opportunity to push for further policy action on net neutrality. “The internet creates new jobs, new technologies, and new ways of communicating around the globe,” Beckerman said. “Its ‘innovation without permission’ ecosystem flows from a decentralized, open architecture that has few barriers to entry. Yet, the continued success of this amazing platform should not be taken for granted. The Internet Association supports enforceable rules that ensure an open internet, free from government control or discriminatory, anticompetitive actions by gatekeepers.”

Computer & Communications Industry Association: CCIA took a largely positive stance, while noting that the ruling was based on a “technicality because the FCC did not employ the right statutory authority” when making its net neutrality rules. “We’re optimistic that this ruling will now result in a better approach by the FCC to keep the internet open and prevent internet access providers from favoring some content over others,” President and CEO Ed Black said in a statement. “This nondiscrimination principle has been key to the launching of new internet platforms, websites, and applications and to the growth of the tech industry and innovation in the U.S. since the 1990s.”

Free-Speech Groups

American Civil Liberties Union: In a blog post, ACLU Legislative Counsel Gabe Rothman noted that, while the decision was troublesome, the court did leave open a pathway for the FCC to enforce net neutrality. “The court actually said that the FCC could promulgate net neutrality regulations but that it had failed to do so under the proper legal framework,” Rothman explained. “Accordingly, the FCC could actually ‘heal itself.’ It could, without going back to Congress, reclassify broadband service under the Communications Act as a ‘common carrier,’ a service, much like plain old telephone service or passenger rail, that holds itself out as available to all comers.”

American Library Association: Describing the ruling as threat to open online access, ALA President Barbara Stripling strongly denounced the decision. “This ruling, if it stands, will adversely affect the daily lives of Americans and fundamentally change the open nature of the internet, where uncensored access to information has been a hallmark of the communication medium since its inception,” she said in a statement.

Telecom Groups

USTelecom: The association, which represents the telecommunications industry as a whole, largely backed the ruling and promised that the industry would continue to respect the open nature of the internet. “While we disagree with the court’s conclusion that Section 706 of the Telecom Act is a grant of authority over broadband, we nonetheless agree with the court that treating internet service providers as common carriers is both inappropriate and unnecessary to preserving an open internet,” USTelecom President Walter McCormick stated.

CTIA: The Wireless Association: The group, which represents major wireless carriers, said it continues to support an open internet but discourages additional regulation of the space. “Policymakers should exercise caution before adding any additional regulation to this area, particularly given the fundamental technical and operational challenges facing mobile broadband providers and the robust competition to attract and retain customers,” CEO Steve Largent said in a statement.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association: The cable industry group, led by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, emphasized that the industry will not block access to “lawful internet content.” “The cable industry has always embraced the principles of an open internet, and the court decision will not change that. Consumers have always been entitled to enjoy the legal web content of their choosing and they will continue to do so. An open internet is good for our customers, and good for our business,” Powell said.

 

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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