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D.C. Circuit Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules

Advocacy Update

On June 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order, or net neutrality rules. In its decision, the court ruled that the FCC had the proper authority to reclassify broadband internet as a common carrier telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act. This classification allows the FCC to legally enforce its rules against Internet Service Providers (ISP) blocking, throttling, or otherwise inhibiting users’ access to legal content, and creating paid prioritization or “fast lanes” where users or content providers must pay more for faster service.

A group of ISPs and telecoms filed suit against the FCC last year saying that the net neutrality rules infringed on their right to free speech, that the agency’s rulemaking process was “arbitrary and capricious,” and that broadband is an information service rather than a telecommunications service.  The FCC has less authority to regulate information services than telecommunications services.  Judges decided against each of these arguments, upholding the agency’s rules for both fixed and mobile broadband.

ISP and telecom petitioners are expected to appeal the circuit court’s ruling and may even go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. In spite of this possibility, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the ruling “a victory for consumers and innovators who desire unfettered access to the entire web.”