The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has rejected Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules intended to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritising certain types of content. ‘Net neutrality’ is the principle that prevents broadband providers from blocking some websites or prioritising others. The case, which was first argued in September 2013 by Verizon, saw the telco claim that the FCC was overstepping its legal authority, and now the Court of Appeals has found in Verizon’s favour.
US regulators have long argued that forcing broadband providers to provide equal internet access and bandwidth to all lawful content was a cornerstone of the open internet, and adopted its current rules in 2010, following a legal battle with cableco Comcast. On that occasion the Court of Appeals maintained that the FCC had failed to justify its exercise of ancillary authority to regulate ISPs’ network management practices.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler commented: ‘[The FCC] is not going to abandon its responsibility to oversee that broadband networks operate in the public interest. It is not going to ignore the historic reality that when a new network transitions to become an economic force that economic incentives begin to affect the public interest. This means that we will not disregard the possibility that exercises of economic power or of ideological preference by dominant network firms will diminish the value of the Internet to some or all segments of our society.’