Net neutrality advocates just scored a major victory in the fight to keep the Internet free of “fast lanes.”
Today, a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission does indeed have the authority to reclassify Internet service providers as “common carriers,” meaning the agency can regulate them in much the same way it regulates telephone service providers. The upshot is that the FCC can now enforce the net neutrality rules it passed last year prohibiting ISPs from blocking or throttling certain sites or types of content, and banning “paid prioritization”–aka “Internet fast lanes.”
“After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement released this morning.
Despite Wheeler’s exuberance, the fight for net neutrality is far from over. AT&T is already vowing to fight the decision. “We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal,” the company’s Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement this morning. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are still fighting to curb the FCC’s powers to enforce the net neutrality rules.
The FCC has been trying to enforce net neutrality for years, but the current legal battle dates back to 2014 when the court ruled that the agency didn’t haven’t have authority to pass the rules for Internet service providers because they weren’t common carriers. So last year the agency passed the Open Internet Act, which re-classified broadband providers as common carriers and set out a set of rules that banned discrimination and anti-competitive behaviors by ISPs.