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Net Neutrality Hearing Totally Comcastic

Published on January 11, 2010
by John Paczkowski

comcasticComcast recently asked a court to vacate the Federal Communications Commission’s order that censured it for interfering with peer-to-peer traffic on its network, and remarkably, the cable giant may get its way.

During a hearing last Friday, a three-judge panel questioned whether the FCC has the authority to impose Net-neutrality rules without an explicit Congressional mandate.

“You can’t get an unbridled, roving commission to go about doing good,” said Chief Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, suggesting that the agency’s “Internet Policy Statement” is “aspirational, not operational.”

That is essentially what Comcast argued in its brief asking the court to vacate the FCC order. “There was simply no federal law to interpret, enforce, or apply against Comcast,” the company’s lawyers wrote in the filing.

It would seem, then, that the three-judge panel is skeptical of the FCC’s authority here and may well end up vacating its sanction against Comcast (CMCSA). That would be an unfortunate turn of events for the FCC, which is pushing hard to solidify its Net neutrality authority.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he was confident the agency has the legal authority. Said Genachowski: “Our hope is that there’s an outcome that preserves a free and open Internet and accomplishes what we’re in this game to do.”

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