As the Justice Department sues California over the Golden State’s strict new net neutrality law, the FCC has gotten active on another front in the war over an open internet.
The FCC and Justice Department last week filed a 167-page brief urging a federal appeals court to reject a suit brought by 22 states, the District of Columbia, Mozilla, Vimeo, public interest groups and local governments challenging the FCC’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules.
According to Ars Technica:
Chairman Ajit Pai’s FCC argued that broadband is not a “telecommunications service” as defined in federal law, and therefore it must be classified as an information service instead. As an information service, broadband cannot be subject to common carrier regulations such as net neutrality rules, Pai’s FCC said. The FCC is only allowed to impose common carrier regulations on telecommunications services.
“Given these classification decisions, the Commission determined that the Communications Act does not endow it with legal authority to retain the former conduct rules,” the FCC said in a summary of its defense filed yesterday in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Net neutrality rules require internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon to treat all internet traffic equally. Advocates of the principle fear abandonment of the rules will lead to the end of the open internet by giving providers the power to throttle services that don’t pay them for preferential treatment, or that compete with providers’ own services.
In addition to the lawsuit over the FCC action, several states, most notably California, have passed their own laws mandating net neutrality. The Trump administration has sued California over its new law, arguing that the state’s law is an attack on interstate commerce.
But experts have said that the FCC’s ruling that it can’t regulate broadband providers has opened the door for states to do just that.