Appeals court strikes down part of FCC's net neutrality rules on ISPs

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling today that strikes down many of the Federal Communication Commission's rules concerning net neutrality regulations on ISPs, which went into effect over two years ago. The decision could lead to Internet providers offering preferential treatment in terms of faster traffic to certain sites, or even the right to block traffic to some websites.

The three judge panel split 2-1 on today's decision, which said that the FCC overstepped its bounds when it tried to regulate the activities of ISPs.  The regulator did not classify those businesses as "common carriers", unlike how they label phone companies. In their decision today, the appeals court stated, "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."

Today's court ruling did confirm that ISPs must still tell its customers if it provides preferential treatment to certain data. In other words, if it gives better access to Netflix, it has to reveal that fact to subscribers up front.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement today, "We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans."

Net Neutrality image via Shutterstock

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