No doubt the hearts of net activists around the country went aflutter when Minnesota Senator Al Franken made his very first question to Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor about net neutrality. Franken asked for her opinion on the 2005 “Brand X” decision, which net activists argue allows companies with both ISP and content interests to give their traffic precedence over other Internet traffic.
Essentially, Brand X affirmed the FCC’s decision that the Internet was an information service, and thus free of any requirements that would require it to be “open.”
Franken seemed to try to prod Sotomayor for her position on net neutrality, and she for all intents and purposes demurred, placing the work back in Congress’ hands. Sotomayor did say that as a citizen she realized the value and importance of the Internet.
Gleaning somebody’s stance on an issue from two or three minutes of questioning on the subject is not easy, but I’m not so sure that Sotomayor may be inclined to side with net neutrality as she seems to think it is a legislative issue.
This may come down to how she’ll decide cases — and she seems to lean towards deciding from already settled law, of which Brand X is already there. That could mean net activists might not have Sotomayor to count on if any future net neutrality cases make it to the high court.
In any case, I do applaud Senator Franken for bringing the issue up front and center. Equal access regardless of the content provider or ISP is important, and is an issue that should concern Internet users regardless of our political beliefs.