Appeals Court Upholds Claw Back of Net Neutrality Rules, With Caveat

October 1, 2019 by Dan McCue
Ajit Pai testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on July 19, 2017. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON – The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued a mixed ruling on the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 repeal of so-called net neutrality, allowing the claw back to stand while striking down a provision blocking states from adopting their own open internet rules.

The Obama-era net neutrality rules classified internet service providers as common carriers, subjecting them to tougher regulations and oversight, and prohibited them from discriminating against certain websites or from offering priority service where companies could pay for their content to reach internet users at faster speeds.

Republicans and service providers like AT&T,  Comcast and Verizon, objected to the rules, but were unable to convince a court to overturn them.

The tide changed with the election of President Donald Trump, and his 2017 appointment of Republican Ajit Pai as FCC chairman. Shortly afterwards, the new Republican majority on the FCC board voted 3-2 to repeal the rules.

“At bottom, the commission lacked the legal authority to categorically abolish all fifty States’ statutorily conferred authority to regulate intrastate communications,” the court wrote, explaining why it threw out that portion of the rule.

The D.C. Circuit also said the FCC needed to spend additional time considering how its rules would affect public safety.

In a dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams said the ruling would leave broadband “subject to state regulation in which the most intrusive will prevail.” 

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