PhotoA federal appeals court has turned aside an industry challenge, upholding the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Open Internet Order – also known as Net Neutrality.

The justices ruled that the FCC acted within its proper authority when it reclassified broadband internet access as a telecom service under law, and it may be regulated as such.

The principal of Net Neutrality is that internet service providers (ISP) cannot discriminate among internet content, charging more for some than others, or slowing some content down, a practice known as “throttling.”

ISPs generally oppose the concept of Net Neutrality, saying some content – such as streaming video – costs more to distribute than others. The industry said it should be allowed to charge more for that kind of content.

Administration action

The Obama administration moved over a year ago to reclassify broadband internet access as a telecom service, under its Title II authority. The move was aimed at preventing ISPs from blocking, censoring, throttling, or degrading online content, services, and applications.

“Today’s ruling is a great victory for the millions and millions of internet users who have fought for years for Net Neutrality,” said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, one of the public interest groups that intervened in the case.

Aaron said the court spoke loudly and forcefully in support of the FCC's authority to prevent “interference” with consumers' internet service.

“Today’s ruling proves the FCC chose the correct legal path to protect internet users from discrimination by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other broadband providers,” Aaron said. The agency can now stay focused on safeguarding the open communications networks that power our democracy and our economy and on promoting broadband competition privacy and affordable internet access for everyone.”

Chairman reacts

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler also praised the ruling, calling it a victory for consumers and innovators. In a statement, Wheeler said the issue has been debated for a decade but is now settled.

“Today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future,” he said.

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