FCC Can’t Ban States From Passing Net Neutrality Laws, Appeals Court Rules

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FCC Can’t Ban States From Passing Net Neutrality Laws, Appeals Court Rules

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai drinks from an over-sized novelty coffee cup during a commission meeting on December 14, 2src17, in Washington, DC.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai drinks from an over-sized novelty coffee cup during a commission meeting on December 14, 2017, in Washington, DC.
Photo: Alex Wong / Getty

A federal appeals court on Tuesday largely upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to roll back nationwide net-neutrality protections in a blow to supporters of the Obama-era policy. But not everything in the ruling went in the FCC’s favor.

Consumer advocacy groups, including Mozilla, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, as well 22 states, sued the FCC last year over the repeal, which nullified rules that outlawed any blocking or throttling of internet traffic by mobile and fixed broadband providers.

The D.C. Circuit refused to vacate the FCC’s repeal except for one portion: The agency had failed, it said, to demonstrate proper legal authority to ban state governments from passing their own net neutrality rules. The agency had attempted to do so through a “preemption directive” included in the text of its 2018 Restoring Internet Freedom Order, but hadn’t properly explained how state laws would undermine it.

“The Commission ignored binding precedent by failing to ground its sweeping Preemption Directive—which goes far beyond conflict preemption—in a lawful source of statutory authority. That failure is fatal,” the ruling states. It goes on to say: “If the Commission can explain how a state practice actually undermines the 2018 Order, then it can invoke conflict preemption.”

The court, which previously upheld the 2015 Open Internet Order that enshrined net neutrality into law, also remanded the FCC over other multiple other issues, including the fact that it failed to “examine the implications of its decisi

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