The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) fight for net neutrality got another big boost on Tuesday, as the Washington, D.C., federal appeals court upheld the FCC’s Open Internet rules in a 2–1 decision.
The Open Internet rules, initially adopted on Feb. 26, 2015, apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service and prevent internet providers from “blocking” or “throttling” lawful internet traffic and content. The rules also explicitly forbid so-called “fast lanes,” which are arrangements in which internet providers favor or prioritize certain internet content or traffic in exchange for money or other considerations.
From the beginning, these rules have been supported by the Obama administration and championed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. However, they immediately faced opposition from Republican groups and lawsuits from the telecom industry, arguing that this was unnecessary regulation that would harm their businesses.
The federal appeals court’s decision is based on the premise that the internet is now a utility, rather than a luxury. This is seen as an unqualified victory for the FCC, as the court upheld the rules without exception.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth,” Wheeler said in a statement. “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling 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.”
While this has been the most successful fight for net neutrality in the FCC’s history, it is not over yet. The telecom industry is widely expected to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.