WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court’s ruling in 2016 that protected net neutrality.
AT&T and trade groups representing the telecom industry filed lawsuits in the wake of a 2015 decision by the Federal Communications Commission that upheld net neutrality — the principle that all data on the internet must be treated equally.
As part of its 2015 ruling, the FCC barred internet providers from slowing, blocking or speeding up web content or charging extra fees to allow customers access to certain web services.
Internet providers and powerful trade groups, such as the Internet and Television Association, filed suit, arguing in part that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate the flow of internet traffic. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that argument, however, and ruled in favor of the FCC, creating a legal precedent that gave the commission the authority to decide the fate of net neutrality.
Last year, a new Republican-controlled FCC used that authority again to overturn its 2015 ruling and end net neutrality protections. But the D.C. Court of Appeals’ ruling was still on the books.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday means the FCC could reverse course again and reimplement net neutrality, presumably when Democrats regain majority control of the commission.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the industry’s request. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused themselves.