Net neutrality advocates just scored a major victory in the fight to keep the Internet free of “fast lanes.”
Today, a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission does indeed have the authority to reclassify Internet service providers as “common carriers,” meaning the agency can regulate them in much the same way it regulates telephone service providers. The upshot is that the FCC can now enforce the net neutrality rules it passed last year prohibiting ISPs from blocking or throttling certain sites or types of content, and banning “paid prioritization”–aka “Internet fast lanes.”
“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,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement released this morning.
Despite Wheeler’s exuberance, the fight for net neutrality is far from over. AT&T is already vowing to fight the decision. “We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal,” the company’s Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement this morning. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are still fighting to curb the FCC’s powers to enforce the net neutrality rules.
But the court’s decision does remove the biggest immediate threat to net neutrality.