With the Internet fast becoming the most important communications channel, it is untenable for the United States not to have a regulator to ensure nondiscriminatory access, guarantee interconnectivity among rival networks and protect consumers from potential abuse.
Yet that’s exactly where the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit left us all when it said this month that the Federal Communications Commission didn’t have the authority to regulate the Internet — and specifically, could not force the cable giant Comcast to stop blocking peer-to-peer sites.
The decision, in the words of the F.C.C.’s general counsel, Austin Schlick, undermines the agency’s ability to serve as “the cop on the beat for 21st-century communications networks.” It also puts at risk big chunks of the F.C.C.’s strategy for increasing the reach of broadband Internet to all corners of the country and fostering more competition among providers.
Chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission is not planning to appeal the decision, and is studying its options. The F.C.C. could try to forge ahead with its broadband plan despite the court’s decision. Or Congress could give the F.C.C. specific authority to regulate broadband access.
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