D.C. Circuit Refuses to Reconsider Reversal of Net Neutrality Rules

Net neutrality is the concept of preventing internet service providers from blocking or impeding access to certain types of content. Under the administration of President Barack Obama, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposed net neutrality rules on internet service providers. In 2017, however, the FCC repealed these rules. A lawsuit followed, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the FCC last October. The decision allowed internet service providers to shape the way in which consumers access the internet, as long as they disclose changes to their policies.

A combination of advocacy groups, trade groups, and state governments asked the D.C. Circuit to rehear the case. Several large tech companies supported the request for a rehearing, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. However, the original panel that ruled in favor of the FCC declined to rehear the case, as did the full D.C. Circuit. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai welcomed the outcome, observing that the absence of net neutrality rules has not hindered access to the internet or harmed the rights of consumers. The advocacy groups pledged to continue the battle for net neutrality in other settings, such as Congress and state legislatures. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to return to net neutrality, but the U.S. Senate did not consider the measure.

The FCC did not secure a total victory from the D.C. Circuit. The Court ruled last October that the FCC cannot prevent states from imposing their own net neutrality rules. The FCC also must revisit the effect of repealing net neutrality on public safety and on a certain government subsidy program. Meanwhile, the repeal of net neutrality has not altered the actions of internet service providers. In the 20 months since the FCC implemented the new rules, consumers have been able to access and use the internet just as they could under the net neutrality rules.

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