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posted by martyb on Thursday October 03 2019, @10:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the just-give-me-a-big,-fast,-dumb-pipe dept.

States can set own net neutrality rules, court says

A federal appeals court on Tuesday issued a mixed ruling on the Federal Communications Commission repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules. The court upheld the FCC's repeal of the rules, but struck down a key provision that blocked states from passing their own net neutrality protections.

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals also remanded another piece of the order back to the FCC and told the agency to take into consideration other issues, like the effect that the repeal of protections will have on public safety. (See below for the full text of the court's decision in the case, Mozilla v. Federal Communications Commission.)

The Republican-led FCC voted in 2017 to roll back the popular rules, which prohibited broadband companies from blocking or slowing access to the internet in a 3-2 vote along party lines. The rules also barred internet providers from charging companies to deliver their content faster.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai applauded the decision as not only a win for the agency but also a "victory for consumers, broadband deployment, and the free and open Internet." He said the court not only upheld its repeal of the rules, but it also upheld the agency's so-called "transparency rule," which requires broadband providers to disclose when they're making any changes to their service.

[...] The case pitted Mozilla and several other internet companies, such as Etsy and Reddit, as well as 22 state attorneys general, against the Republican-led FCC. They argued that the FCC hadn't provided sufficient reason for repealing the rules.

The decision is the latest chapter in the decade-long fight to protect the internet from excessive control by big broadband companies and how the internet should be regulated. The court largely agreed with the Republican-led FCC that the agency had the discretion to decide how to classify broadband. The Obama-era rules had reclassified broadband as a so-called common carrier service, which treated broadband like a public utility, subject to many of the same regulations as traditional phone service. The 2017 repeal reinstated the less regulated classification of broadband, providing what Chairman Pai and other Republicans have called a "light touch" regulatory approach.

"Regulation of broadband internet has been the subject of protracted litigation, with broadband providers subjected to and then released from common-carrier regulation over the previous decade," the DC Circuit said in its opinion. "We decline to yet again flick the on-off switch of common-carrier regulation under these circumstances."

The regulations didn't officially come off the books until June of last year. The backlash among supporters was immediate, with Democrats in Congress promising to bring the rules back and a slew of states, like California and New York, proposing their own laws to protect consumers.

On this point, the court sided with net neutrality supporters ruling the FCC had overstepped its authority when it barred states from passing their own net neutrality protections. That piece of the decision is seen as the silver-lining in the decision for net neutrality supporters.

Following the ruling, Mozilla said it's still considering its next steps. But the company, best known for its Firefox browser, has vowed to continue fighting for net neutrality protections. It's encouraged by the court's decision to throw-out the FCC's blanket preemption of state net neutrality laws. This will "free states to enact net neutrality rules to protect consumers," Amy Keating, chief legal officer for Mozilla, said in a statement.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03 2019, @01:08PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03 2019, @01:08PM (#902251)

    So now we will have diverse civil 1st-4th amendment civil rights legislation across states. How could that possibly go wrong?