This is an old fight in a new ring. It's about whether regulators or Internet service providers should be trusted to manage the Web.
In December 2010, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a framework for rules enforcing "net neutrality," in effect saying that Internet service providers must treat all Internet traffic equally, and that they can't deliberately block or slow traffic depending on the company that created it or where the traffic is going.
In January 2011, Verizon Communications Inc.filed a lawsuit attempting to overturn those rules, saying the FCC had overstepped its bounds. The suit, along with a similar one by MetroPCS Communications Inc., was dismissed a few months later, on grounds that its objections were premature: The FCC rules weren't even officially in place at the time.
The companies refiled their lawsuits, however, and Verizon's challenge is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. If the court rules in Verizon's favor, the FCC's efforts to police Internet providers would disintegrate. That would likely prompt Congress to look at changing the rules. What's at stake, some argue, is the future of innovation on the Net.
Arguing against the net-neutrality rules is Thomas W. Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va., where he directs the Information Economy Project. Dr. Hazlett previously served as chief economist of the Federal Communications Commission. Taking a stance in favor of the net-neutrality rules is Gigi Sohn, president and chief executive of Public Knowledge, an open-Internet advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
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