A US appeals court has struck out the FCC’s attempts to stop a cable firm from throttling customers’ broadband services, throwing into disarray the agency’s framework for internet regulation.
The court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to stop Comcast, the biggest US cable operator, from slowing down customers’ BitTorrent transfer speeds.
The FCC had ordered Comcast to stop discriminating against BitTorrent traffic and later set out “net neutrality” principles that require telecom and cable operators to treat all internet traffic equally.
Comcast had argued that it needed to be able to shut down or slow the internet services of customers that take up network capacity at the expense of others.
The court ruling effectively allows Comcast and telcos the ability to restrict consumers’ ability to access certain kinds of content, or charge certain heavy users more money for access, the New York Times reported.
However, the FCC could turn to a more powerful regulatory tool and declare that broadband is a telecom service, which would give it the ability to directly regulate the sector.
Michael Copps, one of five FCC commissioners, said the court ruling was a “blow” to the agency and to the open internet.
“The only way the commission can make lemonade out of this lemon of a decision is to do now what should have been done years ago: treat broadband as the telecommunications service that it is.”