The Net neutrality debate could get a lot more complicated. While most of the focus has been on a new rulemaking procedure the FCC has undertaken, a trio of judges seems poised to say, “Not so fast.” Enterprise Networking Planet has the story on the latest turn in Comcast’s efforts to force the issue of the FCC’s authority to regulate how ISPs manage their networks.
WASHINGTON — A panel of federal judges today heard oral arguments in Comcast’s challenge against the Federal Communications Commission’s ruling to censure the cable giant for secretly blocking certain Internet traffic, raising significant questions about the commission’s authority to act in the matter.
Comcast’s (NASDAQ: CMCSA) argument that the FCC’s action in August 2008 was predicated on an “expansive theory” of the commission’s authority, one that found scant support in its statutory authority, seemed to resonate with the judges, who reserved their most pointed questions for the commission’s attorney.
“This is the first time that they have tried in any substantial way to exert authority over the Internet,” said Comcast attorney Helgi Walker, of the law firm Wiley Rein. “This is a historic case.”
FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick flatly disputed that assertion, calling it “profoundly ahistorical,” but the judges seemed skeptical when he cited provisions in communications laws and past cases to support the commission’s position.