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Despite enjoying monopolies across much of the country, ISPs continue to look for new ways to increase their profits. One promising candidate is throttling certain kinds of traffic to cut the cost of bandwidth on "unlimited connections". A U.S. federal court has ruled that the FCC is powerless to stop ISPs from throttling.  (Source: CFC Oklahoma)
Uncontent with mere monopolies or duopolies, ISPs hope to use throttling, "speed lanes" to further increase profits

Is net neutrality dead?  The idea of protecting against the creation of internet "speed lanes" and discrimination against specific types of traffic -- such as P2P connections -- certainly still has powerful supporters, like Google.  However, the movement has been dealt several recent legal defeats which may in effect make it possible for the government to enforce net neutrality, leaving ISPs free to steam-roll the movement.

A D.C. federal Court of Appeals has overturned Federal Communications Commission sanctions against Comcast stemming from 2007 throttling of P2P traffic.  The court was highly critical of the FCC, grilling its lawyer.  It said the sanctions were "aspirational, not operational" and pointed out that the FCC couldn't identify a "specific statute" Comcast violated.  The judge commented that the FCC "can't get an unbridled, roving commission to go about doing good."

The FCC is likely to appeal the ruling.  They also are looking to give net neutrality a legal backbone.  FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has been one of the movement's most outspoken advocates and is currently working with Congress to craft legislation that would make protections against data discrimination the law of the land in the United States.  President Barack Obama included net neutrality in his 2008 campaign platform and he's pushing Congress to complete legislation on the issue.  Obama's 2008 presidential race rival Sen. John McCain is one of the biggest opponents of net neutrality.

Such legislation, though, may still neglect to protect certain kinds of traffic such as P2P connections.  ISPs complain that these connections are frequently used to commit copyright infringement.  More importantly to them, they take up a lot of bandwidth.  The public opposes metered connections, so many ISPs want to throttle P2P traffic as a more subtle means of keeping bandwidth on "unlimited" connections to a minimum.  This could increase their profits greatly, if rolled out across their entire network.

ISPs may be pressed harder by new competition, though.  The FCC has announced a plan to offer speedy 100 Mbps national broadband, to 100 million American homes.  The plan, basically a jumbo version of municipal internet efforts, would increase competition in theory.  Currently ISPs enjoy a monopoly or duopoly on services across much of the country, and consumers have been forced to endure higher prices.

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By sorry dog on 4/7/2010 12:10:21 PM , Rating: 1
While I don't like the effects of this particular ruling, (i.e. allowing Comcast, TW, etc. to screw with groups of customers who now have little recourse) the overall court decision was the right one. If they had allowed the FCC to to procede under their attorney's arguments, that would have a set a expanding precedent for the FCC to regulate almost anything that they could reasonable call under their umbrella. While this seems like a loser a for consumers (and it is in this case) over all this helps to draw limits for the FCC to act on regulations versus legislation. Regulations is where the devil in the details tends to show up so any limit on this I see as a good thing.

As previously mentioned, the real solution to Comcasts of the world is for efforts to breakup monopoly situations to succeed. Although, us bandwidth hogs are in the minority of users, the ISP's will be more hesitant to screw with us if their is are other choices. This is especially true since we tend to affect the word of mouth marketing to a great extend. I indirectly work for a large cable company, but if they throttle I'll be the first to put them down in my expressed opinions.

Anyway, as much as I applaud the FCC for sticking up for customers, they should have seen this one coming, and all the trouble it will cause them. Their broadband initiative plans are now half garbage. By the time they unbooger all the legal implications of this on the broadband initiative, there will probably be another group in the white house and new faces in the department.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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