Verizon's challenge of the Federal Communications Commission's 2011 Network neutrality rules has reached a federal court of appeals. The outcome of this challenge could change the course of mobile networking.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is hearing oral arguments in the case. Verizon is questioning the FCC's authority to regulate Internet traffic. Approved in 2011, Net neutrality rules prevent broadband providers from blocking lawful traffic and require them to disclose network-management practices. This could affect operators' attempts at getting key businesses such as ESPN, Google and Netflix to subsidize wireless data on behalf of users to avoid hits to customers' data caps.
"The big challenge for the FCC here is the pace at which the industry is changing," said Rich Karpinski, Yankee Group Senior Analyst, commenting specifically on a Wall Street Journal article. "Common carriage makes sense in a world where dial tone was crucial, but many customers are cutting the cord voluntarily. Net neutrality makes sense in the wireline broadband market, where in some cases there aren't multiple competitors in a market — and at the same time, available bandwidth is relatively plentiful, making it hard to make a case for discriminating against different sources of traffic. Wireless operators have traditionally faced bandwidth limits – making network management arguments practical – but that's changing as well, and competitive alternatives are strong in most markets."
Karpinski also believes that in order to achieve "true" mobile innovation, it would have to be something more than "shackling" mobile operators for an "open Internet."
"The FCC must take the needs of both sides of this debate to seriously deliver a solution that is not only truly pro-competitive but pro-consumer to boot," Karpinski added.