FCC Strips ISPs of First Amendment Fig Leaf
The First Amendment is one of the most wide-ranging, sacrosanct and deferred to laws in the history of American jurisprudence. And according to the Federal Communications Committee (FCC), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) looking for protection from net neutrality regulations cannot hide behind that amendment any longer.
In 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that cable television companies can claim protection from a range of government regulations thanks to their role as producers of "free speech" under the First Amendment. Last year, ISPs attempted to claim the the same protection. Then last Friday, the FCC put the Internet industry on notice, saying, "the analogy [between ISPs and cable television companies] is inapt." In Washington, that passes as serious smack talk.
In fact, as explicated by Ars Technica's excellent analysis of the ruling, the FCC sees the First Amendment as a mandate to regulate ISPs, not a barrier. Under the FCC's interpretation, the content moving across the Internet forms the speech, and net neutrality helps that speech stay free.
The FCC has been fighting with ISPs such as Comcast since the Obama administration started, and this decision is unlikely to end that combat. However, it does does stake out novel constitutional interpretations on both sides, which could come into play should the FCC and the ISPs ever find themselves standing tall before the Supreme Court.