A big ruling came down Tuesday morning in the decade-long fight over net neutrality, and it's a mixed bag. While upholding the FCC's move to repeal the Obama-era neutrality rules, the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. said that the FCC overstepped in trying to block states from creating their own open-internet rules.
In a statement, Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai declared a complete victory, as the Washington Post reports. "The court affirmed the FCC’s decision to repeal 1930s utility-style regulation of the Internet imposed by the prior administration," Pai said. But given the Department of Justice's recent attempts to block a state law in California establishing net neutrality here, this fight appears far from done.
As Reuters reports, a senior FCC official said in a call to reporters Tuesday that the decision should not be seen as "a green light" for states to begin passing their own internet regulations. The FCC is still deciding what parts of the latest ruling it may still try to appeal.
At issue, in case you've ignored this debate, is whether or not internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T have the right to charge premiums for extra-high-speed internet, and to throttle traffic for those who don't pay those premiums. The debate comes down to whether high-speed internet should be viewed as a utility, or as a commodity — and advocates for net neutrality have argued that it's a slippery slope to letting ISPs charge extra to access specific websites or parts of the web.
In the decision, the court found that net neutrality supporters made “unconvincing” arguments for limiting the powers of ISPs and de-regulating high-speed internet. However the court indicated concern for the "implications of [the FCC's] decisions for public safety," saying the agency may have "failed to examine" these, in addition to how a rollback of net neutrality may affect a government subsidy program for low-income internet users.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the rollback issued a statement, published by the Washington Post, in which she said, "When the FCC rolled back net neutrality, it was on the wrong side of the American people, the wrong side of history. Today we learned in critical respects it was also on the wrong side of the law... There is still a fight to be had, and now it is both at the FCC and at the state and local level."
Bay Area tech companies like Facebook and Google filed briefs with the court in support of net neutrality and the Obama-era rules, as did 22 states' attorneys general. Meanwhile, Pai has long argued that the rules are stifling growth and innovation, removing incentives for telecom companies to build out the nation's broadband networks.