Screw you, ISPs: Net neutrality switches on THIS FRIDAY – US court

Telcos' bid to put broadband regulations on ice smashed by appeals judges

The US Court of Appeals for the DC circuits has denied a motion to halt the FCC's radical net neutrality rules, meaning they will officially kick in tomorrow.

"Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review," the three-judge panel noted.

The decision is a win for those who believe that internet access needs to be given the same legal protections as telephone communications and will see broadband providers prevented from "unreasonably interfering" with people's 'net connections.

There are no less than seven lawsuits and three petitions from cable companies and telecommunications associations seeking to stop or throw out the new broadband regulations. The case decided today, however, was in relation to what will likely be the main one lawsuit: the US Telecom Association versus the FCC.

It does not mean that legal challenges will not continue, but it does mean that the rules will take effect from Friday this week. They could still be over overturned later.

Before the court cases are decided, however, US Congress may put a stop to the regulations. This week, it pushed through a rider in the latest appropriations bill that would prevent the rules from being implemented until the various court cases finished, and would also stop the FCC from using any funds to implement its "protecting and promoting the open internet" order.

Some happy, some not so much

Today's appeals court decision – which has been eagerly waited on for the better part of a week – led to some griping on the part of its opponents.

"Today simply marks the beginning of a protracted legal fight over the legality of the FCC’s takeover of the Internet," said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom, a lobby group opposed to the new rules. "While the courts sort this mess out, the dark cloud of legal uncertainty cast over the Internet will be slowing innovation, curbing investment, and harming consumers."

Meanwhile, Daniel Berninger, founder of VCXC, Convener of the Tech Innovators, put it down to partisan politics: "The Court's stay denial was disappointing, but not unexpected. We drew a panel with two Obama Administration appointees and it was unlikely the liberal majority was going to overturn one of this Administration's signature policies."

FCC chair Tom Wheeler was notably pleased, putting out a statement that read: "This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators! Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open. Blocking, throttling, pay-for-priority fast lanes and other efforts to come between consumers and the Internet are now things of the past. The rules also give broadband providers the certainty and economic incentive to build fast and competitive broadband networks.”

The two dissenting FCC Commissioners vowed to fight on. "I am disappointed by the court’s decision to deny a stay of the Net Neutrality Order. The fight against the Commission’s rules, however, has only just begun, because unless eradicated they will ultimately harm the foundations of the Internet, and limit its possibilities," said Commissioner Mike O'Rielly.

"In the meantime, I will be vigilant in resisting any attempts by the agency to act as a referee enforcing rules known to none of the players and made up along the way."

Commissioner Ajit Pai opined: "Although I am disappointed that the court did not stay the rules pending its review, this development was not unexpected. The bar for granting any stay is quite high, and I am pleased that the court did not suggest that the rules are in fact legally valid." ®

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