The US broadband industry has lost its lawsuit attempting to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules and the related reclassification of Internet service providers as common carriers.
The ISPs claimed that they had protection under the First Amendment but this was thrown out because the court thought that a broadband provider does not ‘speak’ when providing neutral access to Internet content as common carriage.
US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judges David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan the First Amendment poses no bar to the open Internet rules.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the ruling was victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire Web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth.
“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.”
AT&T is promising to Appeal to the Supreme Court.
In addition to enforcing net neutrality rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization, the decision allows the FCC to continue regulating fixed and mobile broadband providers under the common carrier provisions in Title II of the Communications Act.
Judges were not persuaded by industry arguments that Internet service is unambiguously an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service” subject to stricter regulation. The industry argument ignores that the statutory definition of information service says that “such services are provided ‘via telecommunications,'” the judges wrote.
The industry lawyers pointed to the Verizon v. FCC decision that said the FCC couldn’t impose common carrier rules without classifying broadband as a common carrier service.
However, the Judges said that USTelecom misread the Verizon case.