An appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit has ruled in favor of the FCC on the matter of net neutrality regulations. In 2015, the FCC reclassified ISPs as common carriers and subjected them to regulations that would enforce net neutrality. Some of the main rules of the FCC regulations are that ISPs cannot block access to legal content, cannot throttle the speed of lawful content, and cannot create “fast lanes” by prioritizing some lawful content over other lawful content.
US Telecom, a trade organization representing major telecommunications companies, led the legal battle against the FCC’s regulations, and was joined by several ISPs. The ISPs argued that the FCC regulations were an overreach not justified by existing legislation. They also raised constitutional concerns, arguing that the regulations violated their first amendment rights. The court rejected all arguments and upheld the FCC regulations in their entirety. However, US Telecom and the ISPs have stated their intention to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. ISPs are also seeking action from Congress to limit the FCC’s authority.
The ruling was welcomed by the Obama administration, which has advocated for net neutrality. A White House spokesman stated, “Today’s ruling is a victory for the open, fair and free internet as we know it today – one that remains open to innovation and economic growth, without service providers serving as paid gatekeepers.” The ruling was also praised by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler who stated, “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression, and economic growth.”
The ruling also faced significant criticism. Republican senator John Thune, who chairs the Commerce Committee stated that the FCC regulations are “designed for the monopoly-telephone era.” Thune went on to state that Congress will have to take action to rein in “a highly political agency micromanaging the internet ecosystem.” The US Chamber of Commerce also criticized the ruling and stated that the FCC is, “essentially transforming an entire industry, in this case the internet, from an innovative, lightly regulated enterprise that made huge investments into this country, into a public utility subject to the whims of regulators.”
Some ISPs have stated that they are in favor of net neutrality in general but think the FCC regulations go too far. Verizon has stated its support for “reasonable, bipartisan legislation that would provide a stable framework for continued investment and innovation.”
Is this ruling good or bad for the Internet? Leave your comments below.