The future of the Internet is in grave danger.
A federal appeals court ruled today that the FCC doesn't have the authority to protect Internet users. The decision means the agency can't stop Comcast from blocking Web traffic. It can't carry out the National Broadband Plan. It won't be able to safeguard Net Neutrality.
I'm a policy lawyer at Free Press. They don't usually let me send you e-mails, but today is different. Let me explain how we got into this mess:
Two years ago, the FCC ruled that Comcast could not block online content, and Comcast challenged the ruling in court. Today, the court ruled in Comcast's favor, effectively placing the Internet in the hands of big phone and cable companies.
This decision exploits a loophole in current law the result of overzealous deregulation by the Bush administration that threatens Net Neutrality and leaves the FCC unable to achieve the crucial goals of the National Broadband Plan.
Thankfully, this FCC can correct its predecessors' mistakes, reassert its authority, and close the loophole. (Get ready, this is a tad complicated.)
The FCC needs to "reclassify" broadband under the Communications Act. In 2002, the FCC decided to place broadband providers outside the legal framework that traditionally applied to companies that offer two-way communications services, like phone companies.
That decision is what first put Net Neutrality in jeopardy, setting in motion the legal wrangling that now endangers the FCC's ability to protect our Internet rights.
But the good news is that the FCC still has the power to set things right, and to make sure the free and open Internet stays that way. And once we've done that, the FCC can ensure that Comcast can't interfere with our communications, no matter the platform.
To be clear: This court decision hurts. But it's created the opportunity for us to fix what was broken so many years ago.
It's our Internet, not theirs. Let's take it back.