A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration acted lawfully when it nixed the net neutrality rules in 2017, dealing a blow to activists who argued the repeal was a give away to the telecommunications industry.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Federal Communications Commission and its Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, finding that net neutrality supporters had made “unconvincing” arguments in their efforts to override the FCC’s move to remove the regulation.
While the ruling was a boon for the FCC, it also overruled the agency’s effort to block states from adopting net neutrality policies of their own, a move that could spur states such as California to act.
“We are very pleased by today’s decision,” an FCC senior official said in a phone conference Tuesday after the court made its ruling. The official provided noted that the FCC is not yet able to determine whether it will appeal the decision to prevent the agency from blocking state-created net neutrality rules.
Pai moved to repeal of the government’s net neutrality rules in 2017. Federal open Internet protections had prevented Internet service providers, including AT&T and Verizon, from slowing down access to web content, or charging services such as Netflix and Hulu for faster delivery of their shows.
Activists often characterize ISPs as a driveway connecting a home to the vast network of portals on the internet, while net neutrality, they claim, is the principle preventing providers from charging a high fee for some traffic. Many people who oppose providing the government more authority over bandwidth say that’s not an apt-description.
Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, for instance, frequently pushes back against that characterization. “Americans have never known anything but an open Internet,” Powell said during a press conference in 2017, noting that an open internet was a concept woven into how the internet was designed.
More than 22 states’ attorneys general, along with cities and various internet companies, sued the FCC. Big tech companies like Facebook and Google also filed supportive briefs through their Washington lobbying group, the Internet Association (IA).
“The internet industry shares the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that net neutrality protections are critical to the future of a free and open internet,” IA President Michael Beckerman said in a statement to the media following the decision.
He added: “IA and our member companies will continue to fight for nationwide, strong, enforceable net neutrality protections that ban blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization through Congress and at the FCC.”
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