Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said the agency will consider filing an appeal to the Supreme Court regarding its net neutrality rules that require equal treatment to internet traffic after a federal appeals court in Washington struck it down.
Commenting on the ruling of the appeals court, Wheeler said, “I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech.”
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Wheeler supports the implementation of the FCC’s net neutrality rules. He previously argued that he has the authority to individually monitor internet service providers (ISPs) against anti-competitive practices or preventing consumers from accessing the web.
On the other hand, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly stated, “Once again, the D.C. Circuit has confirmed that the Commission’s authority to regulate is not boundless. Rather than continue to test those boundaries with ‘prophylactic’ regulations, the commission should look for ways to remove regulatory obstacles to the broadband innovation and investment that will benefit all consumers.”
FCC net neutrality rules
In 2011, the FCC approved the open internet or net-neutrality rules requiring ISPs to treat content in their broadband pipes equally. The agency prohibits an ISP from blocking competing traffic or discriminating against the services of another company utilizing its network to gain advantage for its own service.
Court of Appeals ruling
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) challenged the net-neutrality rules, and argued that the agency does not have the authority to implement it. Two of the three judges hearing the case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the company.
In the 2-1 ruling, the court upheld the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband access, but blocked its power to direct broadband providers on how to manage the traffic on their networks. The judges said, “even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.”
In response to the ruling of the Court of Appeals, Randal Milch, executive vice president, head of public policy, and general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) said the company is also committed towards an open internet and pointed out that the decision of the court will promote further innovation.
Milch said, “The court’s decision will allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet which provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want.”
On the other hand, Harvey Anderson, senior vice president of business and legal affairs at Mozilla commented the court’s decision is alarming for internet users because it gives ISPs the legal ability to block any service they choose and undermines the once free and unbiased internet.