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D.C. Court of Appeals Holds Net Neutrality Rules as Invalid
The United States Court of Appeals, Washington D.C. has ruled that the FCC Net neutrality rules are invalid because the Commission had previously classified the Internet as an “information service” rather than as a “telecommunications service.”
The ruling observed, “Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act (of 1996) expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”
The FCC Net Neutrality Rules had required Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally.
In Comcast Corp. v. FCC, the Court of Appeals had held that the Commission had failed to cite any statutory authority that would justify its order compelling a broadband provider to adhere to open network management practices. The court observed, “After Comcast, the Commission issued the order challenged here … which imposes disclosure, anti-blocking, and anti-discrimination requirements on broadband providers.”
The court admitted that the Commission has established that section 706 of the Telecommunications Act vests it with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure. However, the court further observed, “even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates.”
The court vacated the portions of the Open Internet Order that compelled broadband providers to employ anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules in their service, because, according to the reasoning of the court, “the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations.”
Despite its ruling, the court said the FCC has the power to reclassify broadband providers as telecommunications service, and in doing so, the FCC will gain greater oversight over them.
Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chairman, said in a statement, “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 interests of all Americans.”D.C. Court of Appeals Holds Net Neutrality Rules as Invalid by Scott