A Win for 'Net Neutrality'

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Lauren Victoria Burke/AP

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the government's rules, which ensure consumers get equal access to internet.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied challenges to the Obama administration’s rules for “net neutrality,” which ensure consumers get equal access to internet.

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The ruling is a win for Alphabet Inc.’s Google, online video provider Netflix Inc. and others who championed the notion of an open internet where internet service providers are prevented from offering speedier lanes to those willing to pay extra for them. Challengers including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. had said the rule would discourage innovation and investment.

The three-judge panel heard arguments on Dec. 4. U.S. Circuit judges David Tatel and Sri Srinivasan voted to uphold the FCC, while the third member of the panel, Stephen Williams, issued a partial dissent.

James Gibson, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, in a statement called the ruling “a complete win for the FCC and for net neutrality.”

“The decision gives the FCC authority to regulate broadband like a public utility,” he said. “But it does not mean that the same regulations that apply to, say, the telephone system will apply to the internet. The FCC can craft different rules, as indeed it has.”

Tom Wheeler, FCC’s chairman, called it a “victory for consumers and innovators.” But Michael O’Reilly, an FCC commissioner who opposes “net neutrality,” called the ruling “more than disappointing,” adding he expected it to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“If allowed to stand, however, today’s decision will be extremely detrimental to the future of the internet and all consumers and businesses that use it,” he said. “We all will rue the day the commission was confirmed to have nearly unmitigated power over the internet—and all based on unsubstantiated, imaginary ‘harms.’”