FCC's Authority to Regulate Net Neutrality After Comcast v. FCC [October 27, 2011]   [open pdf - 326KB]

"A major debate over the government's role in the Internet is currently occurring. Legally, the question appears to be whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) currently has the authority to regulate the ways in which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) manage Internet traffic over their networks. The FCC adopted an Internet Policy Statement in 2005 that expressed the agency's support for a policy of non-discrimination toward Internet traffic, subject to reasonable network management. [...] The DC Circuit ruled on April 6, 2010, that the FCC could not base ancillary authority to regulate cable Internet services solely upon broad policy goals contained elsewhere in the Communications Act. Whatever the merits of other jurisdictional arguments the FCC may advance, the court found that the FCC did not have jurisdiction to enforce its network management principles on the basis it had advanced in that case. The court did not address the other questions posed by the case, including whether the FCC could proceed via adjudication. The court's ruling has thrown into doubt the FCC's authority to regulate Internet network management. On December 21, 2010, the Commission adopted new open Internet rules in its Open Internet Order. The Commission cited Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as well as authority ancillary to its statutory mandates in Titles II, III, and VI of the Communications Act of 1934. Two commissioners dissented. Commissioner McDowell published a lengthy rebuttal to the Commission's jurisdictional argument in his dissenting statement. This report will analyze both the Commission's jurisdictional arguments and Commissioner McDowell's counter-arguments. The most recent rules were published in the Federal Register on September 23, 2011. The rules have been challenged in court. The appeals by various parties have been consolidated in the D.C. Circuit."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40234
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