Power to the people
In an historic win for net neutrality, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld regulations over internet service providers created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February 2015.
In a 2 to 1 vote, appeals court judges ruled that the FCC retains the right to regulate internet service providers (ISPs) as public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act, much as it regulates phone companies. The court also upheld rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.
Who wants to bring down regulated internet service?
The case was brought to court by several internet and cable associations and telecom companies, including CenturyLink, AT&T, USTelecon, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and Alamo Broadband. Opponents of net neutrality argue that these rules will throw a wrench in telecommunications infrastructure and growth.
Celebrating the decision
The decision was celebrated by consumer rights groups and Democrats as a win for free speech. Tom Wheeler, the FCC commissioner who crafted the net neutrality order in spite of objections from his GOP peers, called the court’s decision a “victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web.”
He argues that net neutrality will “ensure the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth.”
Bernie Sanders tweeted that the FCC’s net neutrality rules “will help ensure we don’t turn over our democracy to the highest bidder.”
Still not throwing in the towel
Meanwhile, Republicans and the telecom industry are steeling themselves to continue the fight against what they see as burdensome and unfair regulations.
Dissenting member of the FCC commission, Ajit Pai, insists that “these regulations are unlawful” and encourages telecom companies to “continue the legal fight.”
AT&T plans to appeal the ruling, having already anticipated a Supreme Court showdown. Others are turning to lawmakers in hopes of out-legislating the court. Illinois Republican Representative John Shimkus is calling for an overhaul of the Communications Act.
Others, however, feel that the battle for net neutrality has already been won. Said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron, “the people have spoken, the courts have spoken, and this should be the last word on net neutrality.”