Originally published: January 11, 2010
Last updated: January 11, 2010 - 4:31pm
[Commentary] On Friday, Comcast presented oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the company's challenge to the FCC's "Bit Torrent" Order. Comcast and others (including two FCC Commissioners) thought the order was simply wrong, both legally and factually. Some activists insist that Comcast's challenge to the FCC is a fight about network neutrality. That's simply not true.
The primary basis for our challenge, and the basis on which we hope the court will decide this case, is that no federal agency can subject any company or individual to sanctions for violation of federal standards when there was no law in the first place. This is a basic issue of fair notice, regardless of the issue at stake. So it shouldn't matter whether you are for or against "net neutrality" regulation — this is simply not the way the government should conduct its business. If the FCC — or any agency — wants to regulate in an area, it needs first to establish binding regulations and apply them properly, consistent with the process that Chairman Genachowski has now proposed.
So where does Comcast stand on whether net neutrality rules are needed? On Friday Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts endorsed the FCC trying to make clear what the rules of the road are moving forward. But we continue to question whether the record will show a need for new rules — because broadband competition and consumer demand will ensure that the Internet remain open as it has always been — the FCC may decide otherwise. If that is the result, we are obviously better off having "clear rules," as Roberts stated, than with the confusion of having the FCC try to enforce an unenforceable and vague "policy statement." It's truly sad that the debate around "net neutrality," or the need to regulate to "preserve an open Internet," has been filled with so much rhetoric, vituperation, and confusion. That's gone on long enough. It is time to move on, and for the FCC to decide, in a clear and reasoned way, whether and what rules are needed to "preserve an open Internet," and to whom they should apply and how.
In launching the rulemaking, the FCC said that greater clarity is required, and we agree. Comcast will join many other interested parties in making comments to the FCC this week regarding its proposed open Internet rules. Our goal is to move past the rhetoric and to provide thoughtful, constructive, and fact-based guidance as the FCC looks for a way forward that will be lawful and that will effectively balance all the important interests at stake.
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