Federal Appeals Court Nixes FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules


Ruling vacates key portions of commission's 2010 Open Internet Order, which forbade Internet providers from blocking or degrading traffic based on source

The U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. District struck down the FCC’s so-called Net Neutrality rules, siding with Verizon Communications that the commission overstepped its legal authority in a ruling Tuesday.

In the 81-page ruling, the court said the FCC did not have the legal authority to adopt the 2010 regulations. The court said that even though the commission has general authority to regulate broadband, “it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates.”

The decision has broad implications for Internet businesses of all kinds, including Google, Yahoo, Netflix, Amazon.com, Apple and Facebook — as well as traditional media companies that rely on broadband networks for content distribution. The ruling for now establishes that government regulators can’t dictate how Internet service providers manage their networks and how they choose to prioritize data.

SEE ALSO: FCC’s Options Narrow After Court Blocks Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC’s Open Internet Order, adopted by the agency in December 2010, forbids Internet service providers from blocking or degrading traffic based on source. Verizon promptly filed a legal challenge to the rules, alleging the commission did not have authority to impose them — and on Tuesday, the federal appeals court agreed. However, the court rejected the telco’s challenge to the FCC’s rules requiring providers to disclose their network-management practices.

In a statement, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler accentuated the parts of the ruling that were favorable to the commission. “The D.C. Circuit has correctly held that ‘Section 706 (of the Communications Acts)… vests (the commission) with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure’ and therefore may ‘promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic,'” he said.

Wheeler continued, “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment. We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.”

SEE ALSO: FCC Chairman Voices Clear but Cautious Support for Net Neutrality

The appeals court said that because the FCC has chosen to classify broadband providers in a way that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, “the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.”

In 2010, the appeals court ruled against the FCC’s previous broadband-management rules, in a challenge mounted by Comcast. In that case, the court said the commission had “failed to cite any statutory authority that would justify its order compelling a broadband provider to adhere to open network management practices.”

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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  1. There’s a lot to be lost with this court decision, really. Check out this short mockumentary for info about the basic issues of Net Neutrality: http://www.theinternetmustgo.com

  2. onmedeaJill says:

    Old media strikes back – and wins. The internet is now, effectively, cable television… Will YouTube lovers now be willing to pay a subscription fee for speedy access? How much would you pay for PewDiePie? Chord cutters are screwed…

  3. DG says:

    So as I read this, Time-Warner Cable could, for example, degrade the data flow from other over-the-top video streaming providers in favor of their own services. Hmmmm. Not a good thing for us indies if you ask me.

  4. Jim c bull says:

    yes, I side with the court on this one, due to I think that Obama has over step his legal bounds in government him self more than once, this is what I think ok

    • Dee says:

      Get over this blaming Obama for everything. This particular issue goes far beyond him and his reach. It’s about mega corporations, already with ridiculously huge market shares, monopolizing the internet, and prioritizing what you are able to gain access to on it. Which means they control what you see and read and do, based on their own economic interests. Wake up already. It’s more of the 1% grabbing profit from the small business and the average American. The gap between the have and have-nots has grown to the extent that this country no longer functions as a democracy. People, do your research on the implications placing so much power and authority into the hands o fa very few. What is now essentially a free and democratic space (the internet) won’t be, for very long, if this payola continues. There are ways to ensure creative content without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      • DG says:

        Thank you, Dee. I agree whole-heartedly.

        Since VARIETY is an industry trade publication, I sometimes wish Penske would restrict reader comments just to members of our industry. I’m not sure, but maybe the solution is to make it an option only to *paid* VARIETY subscribers.

        Considering that Drudge has links on his page to all the industry sites, I can only imaging a group of right-wing radicals on a crusade to spread their jealously & hatred for Hollywood by excreting comments such as the one you responded too.

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