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The federal courts have already given up on net neutrality
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The federal courts have already given up on net neutrality

BKLYN Info Commons/Flickr

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has not been quiet about his plans to gut net neutrality, and the US legal system is taking him seriously. A federal court on Monday denied a group of internet service providers the chance to re-argue their case against net neutrality rules implemented by former President Barack Obama’s administration. The judges’ reasoning? The FCC is about to get rid of those regulations anyway.

The service providers had requested an en banc review of net neutrality rules, but the DC Circuit Court of Appeals said that would simply be a waste of time.

“En banc review would be particularly unwarranted at this point in light of the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the FCC’s Order,” the ruling reads. It further says the court “could find itself examining, and pronouncing on, the validity of a rule that the agency had already slated for replacement.”

Last week, Pai laid out his plans to dismantle net neutrality as follows:

  • Strip the internet of its Title II “common carrier” status, which means it’s treated like a public utility. Instead, make the internet a Title I “information” service, dramatically reducing regulation in the industry.
  • Remove the “internet conduct standard,” which enables the FCC to investigate zero-rating schemes like AT&T’s Sponsored Data and Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360. These plans exclude certain services from monthly data allowances.
  • Review 2015’s “bright-line rules” that make it illegal for carriers to block access to legal content online, arbitrarily throttle internet traffic, or create “fast lanes” for certain services.

These changes would also place the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, in charge of privacy complaints. Pai’s plan will go to an initial vote on May 18th and the FCC will technically be open to public feedback, though a wave of opposition is unlikely to sway the commission.

The ISPs can now take their case against net neutrality to the Supreme Court, if they still think that step is necessary.

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