Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal

Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal

The issue of net neutrality continues to play out in court.

Three conservative judges-Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Neil Gorsuch-were all set to vacate the seven lower court rulings that favored the Obama-era FCC regulations.

The court on Monday rejected appeals from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court ruling in favor of the "net neutrality" rules.

The rules championed by Democratic former President Barack Obama, meant to safeguard equal access to content on the internet, were opposed by President Donald Trump, a Republican. The policy reversal went into effect in June.

The notice also noted that: "Chief Justice and Justice Kavanaugh took no part in the consideration or decision of these petitions". The D.C. Circuit upheld the regulations, prompting industry groups to escalate the case to the Supreme Court.

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A federal appeals court had upheld the rules, which prohibit internet providers from blocking or throttling content or selling off "fast lanes" of traffic so websites can get speedier access to consumers.

The new rules, which gave internet service providers greater power to regulate the content that customers access, are now the subject of a separate legal fight after being challenged by numerous groups that backed net neutrality.

The decision [PDF] removes one piece of a jigsaw of legal cases working their way through the law courts that challenge both the 2015 rules - introduced during the Obama Administration under FCC chair Tom Wheeler - and the more recent 2018 rules - introduced during the Trump Administration by FCC chair Ajit Pai. In a related case, California's decision to impose state-level net neutrality rules is being challenged by the broadband industry and Trump administration.

"Much of the current FCC's argument [against net neutrality] depends on ignoring or contradicting the DC Circuit's earlier findings, but now that these are firmly established as binding law, the Pai FCC's case is on even weaker ground than before", Bergmayer said.

The net neutrality repeal was a win for providers like Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc. It was opposed by internet companies like Facebook Inc FB.O , Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O and Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O , which have said the repeal could lead to higher costs.

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