Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal - Newswatch

Daniel Fowler
November 8, 2018

But one order today in particular was significant: The justices declined to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholding the Obama administration's "net neutrality" rules, which (generally speaking) required internet service providers to treat all traffic on the internet equally.

The decision [PDF] removes one piece of a jigsaw of legal cases working their way through the law courts that challenge both the 2015 rules - introduced during the Obama Administration under FCC chair Tom Wheeler - and the more recent 2018 rules - introduced during the Trump Administration by FCC chair Ajit Pai.

The appeals, filed more than a year ago, lost most of their practical significance in June, when a new Federal Communications Commission order took effect and abolished the net neutrality rule. The Supreme Court's decision won't make a huge difference to an ongoing federal overhaul of net neutrality regulations in the short term, but it could set a precedent for future court cases. Roberts owned stock in AT&T-owned Time Warner, while Kavanaugh took part in the case when he was a judge on the DC Circuit appeals court, Bloomberg Supreme Court Reporter Greg Stohr noted.

"The court's newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, was expected to recuse himself from voting on the petitions because he had participated in the cases while on the D.C. Circuit, and he did".

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The FCC itself also was in favor of voiding the decision that upheld its 2015-era rules, according to Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat on the commission.

The Supreme Court's decision does not reverse nor reject the FCC's ruling to repeal net neutrality. Justice Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts recused themselves from the vote. But the justices refused to hear the appeals, leaving the lower court ruling in place.

The FCC's rescission of the net neutrality rule came after Republicans, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, took control of the agency past year. They know their repeal of net neutrality was so filled with procedural missteps and outright fraud that they're anxious it will be overturned by next year's net neutrality lawsuits, opening arguments for which begin in February. The Pai-led FCC is defending its net neutrality repeal against a lawsuit filed by dozens of litigants, including 22 state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups, and tech companies.

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