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Supreme Court Throws Out Industry Appeal of Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules

In a modest victory for net neutrality supporters, the Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal requested by the telecommunications industry and the Trump administration.

The appeal sought to challenge a lower court ruling that upheld Obama-era net neutrality rules that banned Internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to certain websites, CNBC reported. The Supreme Court’s decision won’t make a huge difference to an ongoing federal overhaul of net neutrality regulations in the short term, but it could set a precedent for future court cases.

In December, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai already reversed the 2015 net neutrality rules.

But the Supreme Court on Monday said it would not review petitions filed by telecommunications groups, including AT&T, and broadband lobbying groups NCTA, CTIA, USTelecom, and the American Cable Association. Three judges voted to grant the petitions, but four out of the nine are necessary to move forward.

The Supreme Court’s brief noted that conservative judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch would have thrown out the appeals decision, according to Reuters. While this ruling will not change the FCC’s overhaul of net neutrality regulations, which went into effect in June 2018, supporters of net neutrality still celebrated the win.

“We’re grateful that a majority of the justices saw through the flimsy arguments made by AT&T and Comcast lobbyists,” Matt Wood, the policy director at Free Press said in a statement. “There was absolutely no reason for the Supreme Court to take this case, and today’s denial puts to bed the chances of upending the correct appellate-court decisions.”

In an unrelated case, California’s decision to enact state-level net neutrality regulations is still facing a lawsuit on behalf of the Trump administration and the broadband industry. The FCC’s decision to gut net neutrality regulations is also being challenged in court in Washington.