A US appeals court largely upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality protections, but struck down a provision barring states from implementing their own open internet rules.
The 2017 repeal order unravelled protections put in place in 2015, which subjected operators to more stringent oversight and banned providers from blocking, throttling or offering paid prioritisation.
In its decision, the court confirmed the FCC had the authority to loosen regulation of broadband providers by reclassifying them as so-called Title I information services rather than Title II common carriers as they had been under the 2015 rules.
However, it determined the agency lacked the legal authority to issue a blanket ban on states enacting more stringent protections, concluding the FCC must challenge such regulations on a case-by-case basis.
It also ordered the FCC to address the repeal order’s impact on public safety communications, utility pole access and funding for the Lifeline broadband subsidy programme, finding it failed to do so previously.
“Any blocking or throttling of these internet communications during a public safety crisis could have dire, irreversible results,” the judges wrote.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the Commission would examine the issues raised by the court, but hailed the decision as an overall “victory for consumers, broadband deployment and the free and open internet”.
However, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel contended the ruling is evidence the FCC “got it wrong,” adding the “American people are not done fighting for an open internet”.
Web browser company Mozilla, which was among those challenging the repeal order, said it was weighing whether to appeal the court’s decision.
With the battle threatening to rage on, industry group CTIA called on Congress to step in and pass permanent neutrality protections which would protect “consumers’ interests without discouraging network investments”.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back