2010, when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals held that the FCC lacked the
authority to enforce net neutrality principles against network operators who
provide broadband access. In Comcast v. FCC,7 the court held that the FCC lacked
authority because (1) broadband providers were not common carriers but rather
“information service” providers and (2) the FCC also lacked any “ancillary
authority” under Title I of the Communications Act to enforce the principles.8
After the Comcast v. FCC ruling, the FCC has considered different
possibilities to enforce net neutrality principles. The FCC originally considered
agency reclassification of broadband providers under Title II of the
Communications Act, which would have allowed the FCC to enforce the certain
common carrier requirements against network operators who offer broadband
Internet access. However, facing strong opposition from networks surrounding
reclassification—for fear that they may become subject to additional
regulations—Chairman Genachowski announced on December 1, 2010, that he
would introduce a proposal for net neutrality regulation under Title I ancillary
authority. The FCC continues to assert its authority to enact net neutrality rules
under Title I ancillary authority, but its NPRM rests this authority on slightly
different grounds than were asserted in Comcast v. FCC. The Chairman also
welcomed any action by Congress related to a net neutrality statute. The library
community should continue to monitor how this issue resolves itself in
Washington because it will directly impact libraries’ ability to effectively
support research, teaching, and learning.
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The Importance of Net Neutrality to Research Libraries in the Digital Age
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C O N T I N U E D
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DECEMBER 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Timeline of Net Neutrality Rulemaking
September 2005 FCC publishes the Internet Policy Statement containing the four open Internet principles.
January 2008 FCC auctions a block of wireless spectrum requiring any purchaser to adhere to the
principles of the Internet Policy Statement.
September 2009 FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski adds the non-discrimination and transparency
principles to the original four Internet Policy Statement principles.
October 2009 FCC issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the issue of codifying
the six open Internet principles.
April 2010 DC Circuit Court ruled that FCC lacked authority to impose net neutrality principles
in the case Comcast v. FCC. The FCC appeals the case to the Supreme Court.
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