FCC Wants Net Neutrality Case Transferred to DC Circuit

June 10, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
FCC Wants Net Neutrality Case Transferred to DC Circuit
Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Sept. 27. 2023. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is trying to keep a pivotal net neutrality case in Washington, D.C., as the agency seeks to prevent internet companies from giving preference to favored customers.

Along with its motion to transfer the case to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, the FCC declined an industry petition last week to suspend its new net neutrality rules.

Internet service providers who sued to block the rules say they would cause them serious financial harm. The companies included AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

They also accuse the FCC of violating the Supreme Court’s Major Questions Doctrine, a relatively new rule that requires the FCC to receive clear authorization from Congress to adopt regulations of great economic and political significance.

The FCC approved its net neutrality rules in April. They are set to take effect July 22.

“I have full confidence in what this agency has developed with respect to net neutrality, and I believe our work will be upheld by the courts,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

Net neutrality means internet service providers are required to treat all data posted through their service equally.

The FCC’s new rules say internet service providers cannot restrict access, slow retrieval speeds or block content for certain users. They also forbid special arrangements in which the internet service providers give improved network speeds or access to favored users, such as advertisers who provide them with the most money.

A lawsuit filed by industry groups is pending on appeal before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. Previous lawsuits and appeals on net neutrality were handled by federal courts in Washington.

The FCC argued in its motion that if the case stays in Cincinnati, the court would need to start afresh in acquiring evidence that already has been decided in the Washington courts, thereby slowing a judgment and possibly resulting in contradictions.

The lawsuit consolidates nearly a dozen cases nationwide by industry groups and public interest associations.

“If litigation were to proceed in this court, instead of the D.C. Circuit, the court and the parties would need to expend considerable effort to walk the same ground paved by the past 16 years of litigation,” the agency said.

The lawsuits were filed against the FCC by the National Consumer Law Center, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, the Wireless Association and others.

Net neutrality has been one of President Joe Biden’s goals, a means of preventing large corporations from dominating the internet.

He signed an executive order in July 2021 that encouraged the FCC to reinstate the net neutrality rules adopted by the Obama administration in 2015.

The telecommunications companies disagreed, saying in a joint statement the FCC “has once again claimed all-encompassing authority to regulate how Americans access the internet — this time, adopting even more invasive rules than it did in 2015.”

The Trump administration’s FCC abolished the rules. Former President Donald Trump’s FCC administrators said the rules were unnecessary, impeded innovation and resulted in a drop in network investment by internet service providers.

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