Net Neutrality Court Ruling: States Can Set Own Rules

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.

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 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.”