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The Shifting Sands of Net Neutrality and Impending FCC Lawsuits

by Bill

Net Neutrality Throttled ConnectionIn the wake of President Obama coming out in favor of reclassifying broadband services as utilities and imposing rules to prevent them from throttling or blocking content providers in a bid to obtain payments for “fast lane” throughput, the FCC is girding itself for the almost certain lawsuits that will soon follow. In a recent Q&A session, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated that the new net neutrality regulations would not be issued quickly, as the president urged, as both Verizon and AT&T are threatening lawsuits to prevent the implementation of net neutrality rules.

As Wheeler stated, “Any time the commission has moved to do something, one of the big dogs has gone to sue… We don’t want to ignore history. We want to come out with good rules that accomplish what we need to accomplish, an open Internet, no blocking, no throttling, no fast lanes, no discrimination, and we want those rules to be in place after a court decision. So we want to be sure we’re thoughtful in the way in which we structure them and we’re thoughtful in the way we present what will ultimately be presented to a court.”

Reactions to Obama’s assertion that ISPs should be regulated under Title II of the Communications Act, rather than the less stringent section 706, was greeted by howls of protest from Verizon, who promised to sue if Title II regulations were implemented, rather than section 706 regulations, which is somewhat ironic, as Verizon sued the FCC for using 706 in 2010, which is what set off this net neutrality debate in the first place.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, who has been spearheading efforts to erode American tech companies’ hegemony in the data space, recently came out against net neutrality, taking up the cause as enunciated by Deutche Telekom, who characterizes net neutrality as “privileging of American companies,” like Netflix, Facebook, Google and Amazon. The argument the German telecoms and Merkel make is that development of “smart factories” would be hampered by treating all data as equal, a claim that is characterized as “incredibly disingenuous” by German media watchers, who note that German users are already paying more for data than anywhere else in the EU because of the near-monopoly that Deutsche Telekom already holds over data services in their home country.

Regardless of the individual battles that may have been won by either side, the war is clearly far from over.

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