Appeal Court Rules on Net Neutrality: Both Sides Declare Victory

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled on the controversial net neutrality rollbacks passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 2018 the FCC moved to deregulate the broadband and telecommunications industries, setting off a battle that has repercussions for the very core of the Internet.

At the heart of the issue is whether companies have the right to deprioritize certain kinds of Internet traffic, or charge companies and consumers more to deliver or access certain kinds of content. Proponents of the FCC’s decision praised it as one that would drive innovation and help keep costs low.

On the other hand, critics warned that it would allow large companies to unfairly shut out smaller competitors. For example, rolling back net neutrality could allow a company like AT&T to charge Netflix exorbitantly more in an effort to protect AT&T’s DirecTV from competition. Alternately, a broadband provider could offer their own content free, while charging customers more to access a competitor’s.

In response to the FCC’s ruling, a coalition of companies and groups, led by Mozilla, sued the agency in an effort to block the new rules. In today’s ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s right to roll back net neutrality, finding that the agency did not overreach its authority in its 2018 ruling.

At the same time, however, the court handed a partial victory to critics of the FCC’s new rules, as it provides a way for states and localities to implement their own net neutrality requirements. In the FCC’s new rules, the agency had included an order prohibiting state and local governments from implementing their own rules. Now that the appeals court has struck down that order, those entities are free to pursue their own regulations, ensuring net neutrality will live on.

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