FCC can’t block states from passing their own net neutrality laws, states a U.S. court

4 min read

In November last year, Mozilla filed a case against the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), opposing their decision of retracting the net neutrality protection rules. This was in the order of FCC’s decision to classify the ISPs as Title II (common carrier services) service providers under the Communications Act of 1934. The Title II classifier, unlike Title I, allowed the FCC to have regulatory power over the ISPs. On the other hand, Mozilla and other companies, trade groups, states, and organizations protested this decision as an unethical move by FCC.

Net neutrality compels ISPs to treat all the data on the internet as equal. This means that all the data on the internet should be presented at the same rate, without any discrepancy. In a non-net neutrality scenario, the ISPs can create data in fast and slow lanes, block sites, or even charge companies more money to prioritize their content.

Read Also: The future of net neutrality is being decided in court right now, as Mozilla takes on the FCC

The latest development in this issue came last week when a U.S. court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit supported the FCC’s decision of revoking the net neutrality rules.

The Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, lauded this decision and asserted it as a victory for consumers and broadband deployments. He added, “The court also upheld our robust transparency rule so that consumers can be fully informed about their online options. Since we adopted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, consumers have seen 40% faster speeds and millions more Americans have gained access to the Internet.”

States can pass their own net neutrality laws

Notably, the court has also restricted FCC from preemptively ceasing the states from adopting their own, stricter rules. According to Mozilla, the three-judge panel disagreed with FCC’s argument about preempting state net neutrality legislation across the board. The judges affirmed, “States have already shown that they are ready to step in and enact net neutrality rules to protect consumers, with laws in California and Vermont among others.” 

This rule paves the way for the 34 U.S. states who have already introduced or passed net neutrality rules. Last year, California’s legislature had passed the Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 which is dubbed as the strongest net neutrality law in the country. The bill bans internet providers from blocking and throttling legal content and prioritizing sites or services over others. These restrictions are applied to both home and mobile connections. Soon after the bill was passed, the FCC and Department of Justice (DoJ) had filed lawsuits blocking its implementation.

Following on the same lines, Vermont had also passed a bill to establish consumer protection and net neutrality standards applicable to internet service providers. However, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office has said that despite the federal appeals court giving states more power to regulate internet providers, the state will not be able to implement the law until the appeals process in the federal case is fully resolved.

Verge reports that the judges on the panel criticized FCC for exhibiting “disregard of its duty” by not evaluating how its rule would affect public safety. The court has also asked the FCC to consider the impact that reclassification will have on pole attachments. It also added that the FCC has not sufficiently addressed the concerns about how the change would affect the Lifeline internet access program for low-income Americans. Commenting on allegations, Pai said that they are working on addressing “the narrow issues” that the court has identified.

In a blog post, Mozilla said the court’s decision clearly “underscores the frailty of the FCC’s approach” as the judges have questioned the FCC’s reclassification of broadband internet access from a ‘telecommunications service’ to an ‘information service.’ Mozilla has maintained that they are looking forward to continuing this fight with the FCC.

If either of the party now decides to appeal, Congress may have to step in to settle the issue. With the Democrats vowing to restore the protections and the Republicans opposing the bill, this battle may end up as a bipartisan compromise.

Many U.S. Senators have extended their support for net neutrality on Twitter.

Read Next

US Supreme Court ends the net neutrality debate by rejecting the 2015 net neutrality repeal allowing the internet to be free and open again

Spammy bots most likely influenced FCC’s decision on net neutrality repeal, says a new Stanford study

Google Project Zero discloses a zero-day Android exploit in Pixel, Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung devices

The OpenJS Foundation accepts NVM as its first new incubating project since the Node.js Foundation and JSF merger

An unpatched security issue in the Kubernetes API is vulnerable to a “billion laughs” attack