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Court: FCC does not have authority to regulate net neutrality

The FCC does not have the authority to enforce net neutrality, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The case centered on the FCC’s 2008 decision to ban Comcast from throttling file-sharing services for video and TV shows, Reuters and the Associated Press report.

Before the court decision, Amit Schejter, professor of telecommunications policy at Penn State, told Reuters that the FCC will have three options if the court rules against the agency.

First, the FCC can appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Second, Congress could rewrite laws to line out the FCC’s authority over the Internet. Both of those options could take years.

The third option would be to classify broadband services under the existing rules that govern telephone services. That decision, which is within the FCC’s power, would likely cause problems too:

A court loss followed by FCC actions to implement broadband policies would inevitably invite challenges by companies willing to unleash their legal budgets to take the FCC to court while the agency pushes its broadband plan and an open Internet agenda.

Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president for public affairs told Reuters that no matter what happens, the role of government in regulating the Internet will need to be hashed out.

“It is clear to me that we need a fresh look at what the role of government should be in the Internet ecosystem, and specifically at the statute governing the communications industry,” Tauke said.