Court Deals a Blow to Net Neutrality

Striking down the FCC’s ability to enforce the 'Open Internet Order'

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Update: 4:45 p.m.

A federal court on Tuesday struck down key parts of the government’s so-called “net neutrality” regulations, raising the possibility that Internet providers could give preference to traffic from one site over another.

In the case Verizon v. FCC, the appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to regulate Internet Service Providers as “common carriers,” like telephone companies, which have to treat all calls equally, the Wall Street Journal reports. If it stands, the ruling paves the way for ISPs to pick and choose between what traffic is allowed to travel over broadband infrastructure, giving preference to one site or service over another and potentially changing the level playing field that is today’s Internet.

“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,” reads a key portion of the decision.

Open Internet activists have been pressing for years to uphold and strengthen net neutrality regulations, arguing that the free and open ecosystem of the Internet depends on regulations that prevent ISPs from, for instance, cutting a deal with a major corporation like Disney or Fox to deliver their content faster than that of a smaller company.

In a statement in response to the ruling, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “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.”