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.