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Appeals Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules

14 Jun, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A federal appeals court in the District of Columbia June 14 upheld the Federal Communication Commission’s open Internet ruling from last year. In a 2-1 vote, the court ruled against scaling back the government’s landmark decision classifying the Internet as a utility.

In February 2015, the FCC mandated all wireline and wireless Internet access be subject to regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The ruling prohibited Internet Service Providers from interfering with third-party content distribution through throttling or tiered access.

The ruling was seen as a win for over-the-top video and subscription streaming services such as Netflix — the latter having engaged in very public battles with major ISPs such as Comcast regarding distribution of streaming video across broadband channels into consumer homes.

The FCC action prompted trade groups such as the American Cable Association, the Wireless Association and The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) to file litigation seeking to overturn the ruling.

The appeals court ruling specifically dealt with the NCTA’s case, which argued the FCC was undermining “the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in reliance on the prior policy,” among other issues. The appeals court decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regardless, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler hailed the ruling.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. 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,” Wheeler said in a statement.

Netflix, in a statement, said the appeals court ruling and original net neutrality act reflect the power of grass root organizations.

“Today’s appeals court decision underscores what’s possible when millions of consumers unite to be heard and government officials listen. By upholding all parts of the FCC’s net neutrality approach, the appeals court settled two decades of debate and legal uncertainty by ensuring the Internet remains open to all.”

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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