A U.S. Court of Appeals indicated that Internet service providers can be classified as a common carrier and are subject to similar regulations as utility companies. This also reaffirms a 2015 rule by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the Open Internet Act, declaring net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, without blocking particular content or websites or charging extra fees for “data express lanes.”
The decision is seen as a victory for consumers and online content providers as well as tech start-ups. However, Internet service providers have vowed to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
“The ruling was a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the web, and it ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “It affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections–both on fixed and mobile networks–that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.”
Internet service providers fear the ruling opens the door to additional FCC initiatives in the areas of pricing and data security. Members of Congress opposed to the ruling have signaled a willingness to cut the FCC’s budget by $69 million and place restrictions on the Commission using any funds to enforce net neutrality until all legal challenges and appeals have been exhausted.