Not All Traffic is Equal: Federal Court Strikes Down FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

An appeals court ruled the FCC had overstepped its authority in applying antidiscrimination and antiblocking rules to Internet providers.

Not All Traffic is Equal: Federal Court Strikes Down FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules
[Image: Flickr user wburris]

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down parts of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality policies, allowing Internet providers to favor certain types of traffic over others.


The FCC’s Open Internet rules had anti-discrimination and anti-blocking clauses that mandated broadband providers treat all traffic equally. But the court, ruling in favor of the appellant, Verizon, said the commission didn’t have the authority to impose such regulations, which apply to wireless carriers, because the commission had classified Internet service as an information service and not a telecommunications service.

The ruling states:

Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency would consider appealing the decision. In a statement, he said: “We will consider all available options, including those for appeal to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.”

Though the court ruled in Verizon’s favor, it kept intact disclosure requirements, so providers will have to let subscribers know if traffic is slowed or services are blocked.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.