Appeals court won't reconsider net neutrality ruling (Update)

May 1, 2017 by Sam Hananel

A federal appeals court said Monday it won't reconsider its ruling to uphold the government's "net neutrality" rules that require internet providers to treat all online traffic equally.

The decision means the rules favored by consumer groups but despised by telecom companies will remain in place for now. But the Trump administration has already signaled that it intends to scrap the Obama-era policy.

A divided three-judge panel ruled last year to preserve regulations that ban service providers from favoring some content over others. The 2-1 ruling was a win for the Obama administration and consumer groups that sought the rules.

Cable and telecom industry groups like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T say the rules threaten innovation and undermine investment in broadband infrastructure.

Those groups asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to take another look at the earlier ruling, but a panel of eight judges on the court declined. Two judges dissented.

The rules prohibit internet service providers from favoring their own services, blocking other sites and apps, or creating "fast lanes" for video and other data services that pay for the privilege. That means companies like Verizon—which offers its own video services—can't slow down Netflix or charge Spotify extra to stream faster than competing services.

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a speech last week that the rules were unnecessary. He wants to eliminate the FCC's broad powers to monitor Verizon and others for bad behavior.

In a statement Monday, Pai said the court's decision was "not surprising." He said the process of repealing the rules is expected to begin at the FCC on May 18.

Opponents of the rules also could appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sri Srinivasan, who helped write the original opinion in favor of net neutrality, said reconsidering the case would be "particularly unwarranted at this point in light of the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the FCC's order." He noted that the agency would soon consider replacing the policy with a different one.

But Srinivasan said the earlier ruling should stand even apart from the move to repeal net neutrality. He said the rules assure that broadband providers "live up to their promise to consumers of affording them neutral access to internet content of their own choosing."

In separate dissents, Judges Janice Rogers Brown and Brett Kavanaugh said the FCC took action that should have been left to Congress. Kavanaugh also said the rules violate the First Amendment.

To pass the rules, the FCC said it had the power to regulate broadband internet service as a utility, much like telephone service. The commission made the decision after President Barack Obama publicly urged it to protect consumers by doing so.

But the FCC under President Donald Trump could change the rules or simply decline to enforce them. Congress may also write a new law that lays out net neutrality rules and what authority the FCC has to police broadband service.

Explore further: Groups ask appeals court to reconsider net neutrality ruling

Related Stories

Q&A: What is net neutrality and why does it matter?

June 14, 2016

An appeals court on Tuesday upheld "net neutrality" rules that treat the Internet like a public utility and prohibit blocking, slowing and creating paid fast lanes for online traffic. They have been in effect for a year.

'Net neutrality' foe Ajit Pai is new FCC head

January 23, 2017

President Donald Trump has picked a fierce critic of the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules to be chief regulator of the nation's airwaves and internet connections.

Senate votes to undo privacy rules that protect user data

March 23, 2017

The Republican-led Senate moved Thursday to undo Obama-era regulations that would have forced internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to ask customers' permission before they could use or sell much of their personal ...

Q&A: Net neutrality rules go into effect

June 12, 2015

New rules that treat the Internet like a public utility and prevent companies from blocking or slowing down some online traffic took effect Friday.

Recommended for you

Augmented reality takes 3-D printing to next level

February 20, 2018

Cornell researchers are taking 3-D printing and 3-D modeling to a new level by using augmented reality (AR) to allow designers to design in physical space while a robotic arm rapidly prints the work.

What do you get when you cross an airplane with a submarine?

February 15, 2018

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.