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A US Court of Appeals will soon be considering the matter net neutrality. One of the Objections raised by ISPs is that net neutrality rules violate their first amendment rights relating to freedom of speech. The FCC has filed a brief with the court, arguing that the net neutrality does not violate the rights of ISPs. Oral arguments for the case are scheduled for December 4.

Alamo Broadband, a small ISP in Texas, argued in its own brief that ISPs, “exercise the same editorial discretion as cable television operators in deciding which speech to transmit.” The FCC stated that there is a difference between cable TV and the Internet. While television providers have limited capacity to transmit channels, ISPs have no restriction on providing access to all lawful content on the Internet, the FCC argued.

The FCC noted that, Supreme Court rulings have affirmed that common carriers do not have the First Amendment rights of broadcasters or newspapers. While the decision to classify ISPs as common carriers is a controversial one, the FCC believes it is rooted in legal principles dating back centuries to English Common Law, which imposes certain responsibilities on the transportation and communication industries.

The FCC went further with its argument, stating that even if the First Amendment was relevant in this case, the net neutrality rules do not violate it, because they are content-neutral and do not target specific ideas or viewpoints. Under existing legal precedent, content-neutral regulations are permitted as long as the serve an important government interest and do not place more of a burden on free speech than necessary. The FCC explains the important government interests with these regulations are to ensure the public has access to many sources of information, and to ensure a level playing field by preventing ISPs from disadvantaging certain companies.

Do the FCC’s net neutrality regulations violate ISPs First Amendment rights? Leave your comment below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • webkilla

    A phone company has no right to say what you can and cannot say over their phonelines while you converse with someone else.

    Likewise phonec companies aren’t allowed to prevent you from calling people you want to call

    Thus, it stands to reason that an ISP should not be allowed to prevent or hinder you from going to a website of your choice either.

  • Inquiring

    “Alamo Broadband, a small ISP in Texas, argued in its own brief that
    ISPs, “exercise the same editorial discretion as cable television
    operators in deciding which speech to transmit.”” So, Alamo Broadband is, essentially, admitting they want to violate the free speech rights of their customers by exercising their own brand of censorship and preventing access and dissemination of information those customers want.

    What a shitty argument to put forward in the hopes of enabling bandwidth caps or bottlenecks.

  • Gargie

    Because corporate entities should totally have freedom of speech…

  • Toastrider

    Perhaps, but I don’t trust the FCC any further than I trust the corporations. Less, in fact. Corporations can’t arrest you.

  • David Fitzsimmons

    When it come to the internet in the past year the fcc has earned a great deal of my respect. Outside of internet matters the fcc will forever remain the same old fcc imo.

  • BlackBetty1970

    That is the biggest load of crap. I live in San Antonio and Alamo has the highest customer rating in the area. And I would trust them to keep the service up an running far more than I would our government to do so. Whenever we allow the government to regulate something, they only end up regulating it more. Why do we NEVER learn this lesson?

    Everyone complains about the NSA having their claws in our communications, but you’re more than willing to let the FCC dig theirs in. Ok.

  • braneman

    The FCC isn’t trying to decide what you can and cannot view on the internet, your ISP IS trying to decide what you can and cannot view on the internet. If we allow them to decide what we can and cannot view then they could just say “we’re putting netflix in the slow lane with state of the art dial up speeds and our competing service ignores normal data caps and speeds for only 39.99 a month”
    And they will, some places in the US these ISPs don’t even have any competition at all so they can send out their bills to “asshole”(no really Comcast actually did that) and not provide any kind of customer support at all.

  • Sylveria Shini

    It sounds like Alamo wants to reserve the right to prevent you from going to certain sites and the FCC says they can’t do that. Would they do that? Who knows, but their argument is pretty plainly that they want to have the option to do so. How is the FCC the bad guy pushing for regulation in this scenario? For once, the government is trying to give you more freedom, not less.