In the wake of the FCC v. Comcast decision earlier this week, a few possible paths forward on net neutrality opened up. Jack Balkin had a good rundown of them here. One option was for the FCC to claw back the regulatory jurisdiction that it gave away in 2002 by reclassifying broadband as a communications service. Another was the idea of having Congress expand the FCC's mandate to spell out its claim over broadband Internet. (There was waiting on the Supreme Court to overturn the D.C. Circuit, but that hasn't gotten much attention.)
Media advocates pretty quickly rejected the idea of turning to Congress to detail the FCC's jurisdiction, instead aggressively embracing the reclassification route. With its passage of the Digital Economy bill this week, the British Parliament seems determined to demonstrate why. As the Guardian tells it:
An ambitious bill designed to kickstart the UK's broadband-enabled future and tackle internet piracy, it deserved more scrutiny than two hours' late-night discussion in an empty chamber, but was passed on Wednesday with Tory support. Techies that cared watched MPs give gushy statements about saving the creative industries, but ignoring the clumsy clauses that could theoretically block sites including Google and Wikileaks if anyone claims they are used for copyright infringement. Steps designed to stop filesharing could also end up discouraging shops and public bodies hosting open public wifi.
There's little in the United States Congress' recent tech policy history (or its relationship to big copyright holders) to suggest that it would behave better than its British counterpart and limit itself to the basics of Internet access -- which suggests this is one of those instances where it makes sense to opt for the legislature to defer, deeply, to the relevant expert agency.
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