A US appeals court backed the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to impose utility-style regulation on broadband providers to ensure an open internet.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld by 2-1 that the US regulator can continue to ensure both mobile and fixed operators are prohibited from blocking, throttling or offering paid prioritisation over their networks.

The net neutrality rules came into effect in June last year.

“After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future,” said Tom Wheeler, the FCC chief.

In addition to Wheeler, the decision was also seen as a victory for President Obama, who is a supporter of net neutrality.

However, the decision is a setback for US mobile operators, including AT&T and Verizon, as well as fixed and cable operators, which are now expected to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, as well as seeking support in Congress to oppose the rules.

Operators did not argue against the notion of net neutrality, which they claim to support.  They objected to the method used by the FCC to introduce it. They majored on the FCC’s reclassification of telecoms services under Title II of the Communications Act, which dates back to 1934. They claim the approach is outdated and heavyhanded. But they have lost the argument, at least for now.

Among those who praised the appeals court ruling were Netflix and Twitter.

“We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal,” countered David McAtee, AT&T’s general counsel, in a statement.