Wednesday 13 December 2017

Web service providers challenge White House's 'net neutrality' rules

Three-judge panel backed Barack Obama’s administration in June. Photo: Reuters
Three-judge panel backed Barack Obama’s administration in June. Photo: Reuters

David Shepardson

Several wireless, cable and broadband trade associations have urged the full US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a ruling upholding the Obama administration's landmark rules barring internet service providers from obstructing or slowing consumer access to web content.

A three-judge panel in June, in a 2-1 decision, backed the Federal Communications Commission's so-called net neutrality rules put in place last year to make internet service providers treat all internet traffic equally.

The wireless trade association CTIA said in a court filing on Friday seeking a rehearing that "few final rules of any federal administrative agency have ever had so much potential to affect the lives of so many Americans".

In a separate petition, US Telecom and CenturyLink asked the court to reconsider the ruling, as did the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and American Cable Association.

The cable groups said the court should correct "serious errors" in an FCC decision "that radically reshapes federal law governing a massive sector of the economy, which flourished due to hundreds of billions of dollars of investment made in reliance on the policy the order throws overboard."

The FCC rules prohibited broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet - essentially a "fast lane" on the web's information superhighway - to certain internet services over others.

In siding with the FCC, the court treated the internet like a public utility and opened the door to further internet regulations.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement on Friday that "it comes as no surprise that the big dogs have challenged the three-judge panel's decision".

He was confident the full court would agree with the panel's decision.

The panel's ruling in June was a big victory for US President Barack Obama, and the White House hailed it as "a victory for the open, fair and free internet as we know it today - one that remains open to innovation and economic growth".

Net neutrality is a major issue for broadband providers, which fear the rules may make it harder to manage internet traffic and also make investment in additional capacity less likely.


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