Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Michael O'Rielly (R) speaks at a FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington
Photograph by Yuri Gripas — Reuters

The fight for net neutrality continues.

By Reuters
July 29, 2016

Several wireless, cable, and broadband trade associations on Friday urged the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a ruling upholding the Obama administration’s landmark rules barring Internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content.

A three-judge panel in June, in a 2-1 decision, backed the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called net neutrality rules put in place last year to make Internet service providers treat all Internet traffic equally.

The wireless trade association CTIA said in a court filing on Friday seeking a rehearing that “few final rules of any federal administrative agency have ever had so much potential to affect the lives of so many Americans.”

In a separate petition, US Telecom and CenturyLink Inc asked the court to reconsider the ruling, as did the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and American Cable Association.

The cable groups said the court should correct “serious errors” in an FCC decision “that radically reshapes federal law governing a massive sector of the economy, which flourished due to hundreds of billions of dollars of investment made in reliance on the policy the order throws overboard.”

The FCC rules prohibited broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy Internet—essentially a “fast lane” on the web’s information superhighway—to certain Internet services over others.

In siding with the FCC, the court treated the Internet like a public utility and opened the door to further Internet regulations.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement on Friday that “it comes as no surprise that the big dogs have challenged the three-judge panel’s decision.” He was confident the full court would agree with the panel’s decision.

The panel’s ruling in June was a big victory for President Barack Obama and the White House hailed it as “a victory for the open, fair and free Internet as we know it today—one that remains open to innovation and economic growth.”

Net neutrality is a major issue for broadband providers such as Verizon Communications Inc, Comcast Corp and AT&T, which fear the rules may make it harder to manage Internet traffic and also make investment in additional capacity less likely.

The court also rejected legal arguments from opponents that the rules should not apply to mobile phone web use or that they violated the constitutional free-speech rights of Internet service providers.

The FCC decided in 2015 to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers under a 1996 law. But unlike the way utilities are treated, the FCC decided not to impose rate regulations or require broadband providers to file notice of pricing plans.

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