US court deals a blow to FCC

Jan Dawson and Mike Sapien/Ovum
09 Apr 2010


Alternative approaches may be worse for carriers
There are essentially two options available for advocates of net neutrality at this point: appeal the court decision, or pursue a legislative remedy. There is, of course, no guarantee that a court case would be won, and until it reaches the Supreme Court there will be no definitive answer, thus prolonging the regulatory uncertainty. On the other hand, the congressional option is extreme and unpredictable. Congress only has so much time to spend on passing legislation, and with the recent drawn-out fight over healthcare reform, many politicians may be reluctant to pick up another controversial issue so soon.
In addition, previous attempts to pass net neutrality legislation have failed, and have been subject to bitter partisan divisions. If net neutrality legislation were to be passed, there is a good chance that it would be more political and less sophisticated than any solution the FCC might have pursued. The current FCC administration has shown an admirable willingness to investigate issues deeply and take sensible, fact-driven decisions, but there is no guarantee that a congressional solution would emulate those qualities. In the end, the short-term victory presented by the Comcast case may presage a longer-term loss, if Congress (rather than the FCC) is in the driving seat. Comcast may yet wish it hadn’t won this particular battle.