A U.S. appeals court said late on Thursday it will not reconsider an October ruling that upheld the repeal of landmark net neutrality rules, rejecting requests by 15 U.S. states, and tech and advocacy groups.
The Federal Communications Commission in December 2017 reversed Obama-era rules prohibiting internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes, a blow to large tech companies and consumer groups that had championed the level playing field of net neutrality.
In orders issued Thursday, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia declined without comment to rehear the decision, as did the three-judge panel that issued the ruling in October.
The court’s October 2019 opinion upheld the FCC’s Net Neutrality repeal and broadband reclassification order. The decision deferred to precedent on the agency’s discretion to interpret the relevant statutes while questioning the validity of that interpretation in light of today’s broadband marketplace. Yet the court reversed the FCC resoundingly on the agency’s attempt to preempt all state Net Neutrality laws.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who had proposed and championed the repeal, was pleased with the decision, a spokeswoman for him said. “The internet has remained free and open, consumers have been protected, speeds have increased, and more and more Americans have gotten access to broadband,” she said.
In December, Free Press filed a petition for rehearing of the decision along with New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
Thursday’s denial of that rehearing request, and of several others filed by other parties likewise challenging the FCC’s decision, starts the clock on potential further appeals. Parties now have at least 90 days to consider seeking Supreme Court review, and could request more time beyond that 90-day deadline.
Firefox browser maker Mozilla, which also fought the net neutrality repeal, said it was considering “next steps.”
Free Press Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood made the following statement:
“We’re disappointed by the court’s boilerplate orders denying our rehearing request, because we made the compelling case that the October 2019 decision simply didn’t have to turn out that way. The D.C. Circuit’s initial ruling upheld parts of the Pai FCC’s wrongheaded repeal on the slimmest of margins — suggesting incorrectly that the appeals court was bound by earlier Supreme Court decisions, even as the judges held their noses and rightly questioned the wisdom of the FCC’s reasoning.
“While today’s result is unfortunate, it’s not that surprising. Courts routinely deny rehearing requests like this. But we’ll keep weighing our legal options. And we’ll keep making the case in Congress, in statehouses and in future FCC proceedings about the need to restore the vital nondiscrimination rules that Chairman Pai ripped away. We need these kinds of protections for internet users, for the FCC to promote broadband competition and adoption, and for the agency to uphold its public-safety mandates. Any proper reading of the law requires restoring the rights that a majority of Americans of every political stripe demand.”