By Kevin Daley
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s so called “net-neutrality” rules on Tuesday, which allow the agency to regulate internet providers like any other public utility company.
In a 2-1 decision, a three judge panel found that the FCC was within its rights to classify broadband Internet providers as “telecommunications services,” a move strongly supported by President Obama. Classifying ISPs (Internet Service Provider) as a telecommunications service would submit broadband companies to a bevy of federal regulations they had not previously been subject to. (RELATED: The FCC Has FINALLY Released Its Net Neutrality Internet Regulations)
Evaluating the agency’s decision to classify ISPs as a telecommunication service, the D.C. Circuit applied Chevron deference, a legal doctrine requiring court’s to validate agency interpretations of the law, provided Congress has not spoken unambiguously on the matter at hand and that the agency’s interpretation is reasonable. The court, citing a previous decision in National Cable and Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services, ruled that the Communications Act is ambiguous with respect to the proper classification of broadband, and found that the commission’s decision to regulate broadband as a telecommunications service was reasonable.
Ryan Radia, a scholar at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, urged Congress to amend the Communications Act after the ruling, thereby hindering the FCC’s attempts to regulate the internet. “The court’s decision today should galvanize Congress to move quickly to amend the Communications Act to explicitly deprive the FCC of the authority to dictate how Internet providers manage their networks,” he said in a statement.
The panel also sanctioned the FCC’s decision to regulate mobile and cable ISPs in the same way. Wireless broadband providers previously enjoyed some exemptions from net-neutrality rules based on an agency decision in the Bush administration to regulate them as a private mobile service.
The decision was written by Judges Sri Srinivasan and David Tatel. Judge Stephen Williams dissented, but filed a partial concurring opinion.
The case will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court. Read the full opinion here.