A federal appeals court just put net neutrality on firmer legal footing in the US.
A 2-1 vote by a three judge panel on the District of Columbia circuit court backed the regulatory rules sanctioned by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015. The rules instruct telecom companies to treat the internet like a public utility, not a luxury. That means telecom operators can’t exercise any control over the content people access or the speed at which all online traffic flows. Additionally, “fast lanes” are barred, meaning internet service providers can’t charge content providers higher prices for priority delivery.
Understandably, these regulations did not go down well with major cable and telecom companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. They were quick to sue the government for trying to manipulate the broadband market. Many of these operators have engaged in a decade-long battle against the FCC, arguing that net neutrality rules stifle innovation and raise prices for consumers.
Netflix, which feared content being blocked or delivered via slow channels in the absence of net neutrality, applauded the ruling. ”The Court went out of its way to define interconnection as a central part of Net Neutrality, ensuring that providers like Netflix will be able to reach consumers without ISP interference,” the company said in a statement.
Meanwhile, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler tweeted that the win was a victory for consumers and innovators who “deserve unfettered access to the entire web.”
But even as the Obama administration and content providers celebrate the win, the fight will likely rage on. “We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal,” said David McAtee, AT&T’s general counsel.