Appeals court: FCC has jurisdiction to impose net neutrality on ISPs

The Federal District Appeals Court has upheld the FCC's jurisdiction to impose net neutrality rules on telcos, leaving intact last year's landmark FCC ruling prohibiting carriers from downgrading the connections to networked services that didn't pay for "premium carriage."

The ISPs that took the case to the appellate division are likely to try for a Supreme Court hearing next.

As cable-lobbyist-turned-cable-busting-FCC-Chairman Tom Wheeler approaches the end of his term, the fight over net neutrality remains alive and well. Carriers increasingly impose harsh data caps on their customers, and then negotiate zero-rating deals for businesses who bribe them to exempt their services from the cap, accomplishing network discrimination through the backdoor.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are attempting to defund the FCC so that it can't enforce net neutrality orders against telcos who slow down connections to services that refuse to pay bribes.

In their legal challenge, the nation's largest cable and phone companies argued that the FCC overstepped its authority in 2015 by reclassifying internet service providers, or ISPs, as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act.

By doing so, the FCC claimed the authority to apply utility-style regulations originally designed for phone service to broadband internet access, in order to prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization deals, in which ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T favor certain content to the detriment of rivals.

Leading up to the verdict, net neutrality advocates were optimistic, in part because the DC Circuit signalled in 2014 that the FCC would be on stronger legal ground if it reclassified broadband companies as common carriers. The FCC decided to follow what it called the court's "roadmap," and in doing so, prevailed.

Net Neutrality Wins: Federal Court Upholds FCC Open Internet Rules
[Sam Gustin/Motherboard]

(Image: NYC Rolling Rebellion Advocates for Net Neutrality and Takes on TPP & Fast Track, Backbone Coalition, CC-BY)