A federal appeals court on Tuesday delivered a mixed ruling for net neutrality, allowing the FCC’s 2017 repeal to stand but striking down a provision blocking states from implementing their own open internet rules. The court partially vacated the FCC’s 2018 order and sent it back to the agency for further consideration.
All sides claimed the definition of net neutrality affected broadband investment, either positively or negatively. The latest word on that, from USTelecom this July, showed that since 1996, the U.S. broadband industry – wireline, wireless, and cable providers – made capital investments totaling more than $1.7 trillion. In 2018, broadband providers invested approximately $80 billion in network infrastructure. Annual capital investments have grown for the last two years, following a two-year decline from 2015-2016, according to the association, reported Inside Towers.
With Tuesday’s court ruling, the FCC’s right to move the internet from a Title II service to a Title I service was confirmed. This means the Federal Trade Commission now regulates the internet instead of the FCC, reported The Hill.
“We uphold the 2018 Order, with two exceptions,” said the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in its decision. “First, the Court concludes that the Commission has not shown legal authority to issue its Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing any rule or requirement that the Commission ‘repealed or decided to refrain from imposing’ in the Order or that is ‘more stringent’ than the Order. The Court accordingly vacates that portion of the Order. Second, we remand the Order to the agency on three discrete issues: (1) The Order failed to examine the implications of its decisions for public safety; (2) the Order does not sufficiently explain what reclassification will mean for regulation of pole attachments; and (3) the agency did not adequately address Petitioners’ concerns about the effects of broadband reclassification on the Lifeline Program.”
Under Chairman Ajit Pai, the agency decided to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules in 2017, with the Republicans on the Commission carrying the 3-2 vote. The rules classified internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon as common carriers, subjecting them to tougher regulations and oversight. The rules also prohibited them from blocking or discriminating against certain websites, and throttling speeds.
The repeal, which went into effect last year, was a victory for the industry, but despite their win in court on Tuesday they now face the possibility of having to navigate state laws governing internet providers’ handling of web traffic, reported The Hill.
All sides claimed victory with the decision. Pai said: “Since we adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, consumers have seen 40 percent faster speeds and millions more Americans have gained access to the internet. A free and open internet is what we have today and what we’ll continue to have moving forward. We look forward to addressing on remand the narrow issues that the court identified.”
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the senior Democrat at the agency, tweeted: “The Court sends back to the FCC much of the mess it made with Net Neutrality. I stood up for the open internet in 2017 because the FCC was on the wrong side of the American people and the wrong side of history. Let’s keep up the fight.”
October 2, 2019
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