Tuesday, June 18, 2024

FCC wants change of US court hearing challenges to net neutrality rules


By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Federal Communications Commission on Friday asked the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio to transfer a series of industry legal challenges to its decision to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules to a federal court in Washington.

Net neutrality rules require internet service providers (ISPs) to treat internet data and users equally rather than restricting access, slowing speeds or blocking content for certain users. The rules also forbid special arrangements in which ISPs give improved network speeds or access to favored users.

The 6th Circuit was randomly selected after legal challenges were filed in seven circuit courts. The FCC asked that the case be transferred to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“It would be most efficient, and in the interest of justice” the commission said, adding the D.C. Circuit “has repeatedly engaged with the FCC concerning the lawful contours” of the FCC open-internet rules in a series of court decisions.

The FCC voted in April along party lines to reassume regulatory oversight of broadband internet and reinstate open internet rules adopted in 2015 that were rescinded under then-President Donald Trump.

The rules will bar internet service providers from blocking or slowing down traffic to certain websites, or engaging in paid prioritization of lawful content, as well as give the FCC new tools to crack down on Chinese telecom companies and the ability to monitor internet service outages.

Separately, the FCC on Friday rejected a request by industry groups representing AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and others to halt its order from taking effect on July 22. The agency said that “would risk hindering the commission’s ability to pursue other policy obligations and objectives that will benefit consumers, particularly those related to national security and public safety.”

The FCC also said the industry groups had not shown they would suffer irreparable harm if the net neutrality order takes effect, saying they had not offered “any concrete evidence.”

Reinstating net neutrality has been a priority for President Joe Biden, who signed a July 2021 executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate the rules adopted in 2015 under President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat.

Under Trump, the FCC had argued net neutrality rules were unnecessary, blocked innovation and resulted in a decline in network investment by internet service providers, a contention disputed by Democrats.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)



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