The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals came down with a ruling Tuesday that upholds the White House-backed Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality regulations.
The ruling was hailed by President Obama’s press office as “a victory for the open, fair and free Internet as we know it today.”
The court was asked to review the Federal Communications Commission’s February 2015 decision to reclassify wireline and wireless broadband access service as a “Telecommunications Service” and to use the authority of Title II of the Communications Act to impose so-called “network neutrality” rules.
A divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit rejected challenges to the FCC’s rules, under which all broadband service providers are required to treat all content or Internet traffic identically. The court’s 180-plus-page decision in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC is a major victory for the Obama administration, which had pressed for the rules, the Washington Post reports.
The industry and other groups that challenged the rule will surely seek certiorari in the Supreme Court, but high court review is not guaranteed.
Many Republicans in Congress were not pleased with the ruling.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, issued the following statement Tuesday in response:
“I was disappointed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, a regulation that has already led to a decline in innovation at the expense of ordinary Americans.
“Judge Williams’ 69-page dissent will not be forgotten though, particularly his conclusion that: ‘the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork … shunts broadband service into the legal track suited to natural monopolies.’ This will only result in a far less free and open Internet, as it ensures government protection of incumbent firms.
“Today’s decision reinforces the importance of the Restoring Internet Freedom Act, a bill that I recently introduced in the Senate, which aims to nullify the FCC’s Open Internet Order in order to foster the development of a more democratic, fact-based, and economically reasonable approach to ensuring transparency and consumer protection in the Internet ecosystem.”
Lee said the decision also illustrates the dysfunction that arises when Congress delegates vast discretionary authority to unelected federal bureaucrats, and points to the need for Congress to reclaim its lawmaking powers currently exercised by rule-writing agencies in the executive branch.
“To that end, earlier this year I joined nine of my colleagues to launch the Article 1 Project: a new network of House and Senate conservatives working together on a new agenda of government reform and congressional rehabilitation,” Lee said.
“The policies advanced by A1P members seek to reassert Congress’s legislative authority, ensuring that the American people’s elected representatives are responsible, and accountable, for the country’s laws.”
White House Press Secretary issued the following statement on U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC:
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the open, fair, and free Internet as we know it today – one that remains open to innovation and economic growth, without service providers serving as paid gatekeepers. It is also a victory for the millions of Americans who made their voices heard in support of a free and fair Internet, with countless others speaking out on social media, petitioning their government, and standing up for what they believe.
“For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. For most of the Internet’s existence, net neutrality has been the norm, and for most of the President’s term in office, the FCC has implemented rules to enforce it — with no significant burden on Internet Service Providers. Unsurprisingly, today’s ruling affirms those basic realities, and recognizes that an Open Internet is essential for preserving an environment that encourages new investment in the network, new online services and content, and everything else that makes up the Internet as we now know it.
“That is why the President has so strongly supported net neutrality since he was a Senator, and continues to work every day to protect the Internet ecosystem: because it remains one of the greatest gifts our economy — and our society — has ever known.”