With DC Circuit Remand of FCC Net Neutrality Repeal Congress and States Must Act

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an opinion upholding much of the FCC’s 2017 decision repealing its 2015 net neutrality rules. In upholding the FCC’s 2017 decision, the Court reverses its prior decision where it fully upheld the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules.

However, the Court also vacated and remanded part of the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality. The Court specifically vacated the FCC’s preemption of state net neutrality laws, finding that the FCC lacks the legal authority to prevent states from passing their own net neutrality laws. The Court also remanded three issues back to the FCC for consideration: the impact of repealing net neutrality on public safety, the Lifeline program, and pole-attachment regulation.

In August 2018, Common Cause filed an amicus brief urging the DC Circuit to vacate the FCC’s unlawful repeal of net neutrality.

Statement of Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Adviser and Former FCC Commissioner

“Today, the DC Circuit approved the FCC’s 2017 repeal of its 2015 net neutrality rules, reversing the court’s previous decision to uphold those rules.  With this decision, the Court demonstrates it just doesn’t “get it” when it comes to an open internet.  Without net neutrality rules, Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are in the saddle and consumers are being ridden to higher prices, internet throttling, blocking, and slow-lane traffic.

“However, the court’s decision also reverses, the FCC’s decision to preempt state net neutrality laws, making clear that states are free to pass such legislation in order to protect their residents.  The states thus retain their ability to fill the void caused by the repeal of federal net neutrality rules. California has already passed the gold standard for state net neutrality legislation, and other states should follow that model.

“Net neutrality is also about more than bright line rules. It’s about consumer protection, universal service, and competition that all Americans expect when accessing the internet.  Broadband is an essential service for a functioning twenty-first century democracy that impacts our lives in so many ways. The FCC’s failure to consider all aspects of its net neutrality repeal only highlights the need for strong rules that ensure the agency has adequate authority to act as a cop on the beat to protect consumers in an uncompetitive broadband marketplace.

“The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed “Save the Internet Act” legislation to restore strong net neutrality rules nationwide.  The Senate needs to do the same.  Such action would reflect understanding that over 80% of the American people, regardless of political party, want such protections.”

To read today’s ruling, click here.

To read Common Cause’s amicus brief in the case, click here.