Court Will Hear Arguments Against Net Neutrality In December

Though the telecom and cable industry was unable to prevent new net neutrality rules from kicking in earlier this summer, the legal battle over the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband continues. A federal appeals court has agreed to hear arguments in the matter later this year.

The neutrality rules, spelled out in the 2015 Open Internet Order, prevent Internet service providers from manipulating any content they carry on their lines to consumers. So a company like Comcast, which competes directly with Netflix through both its pay-TV offering and its NBCUniversal broadcasting empire, couldn’t deliberately slow down or block access to the streaming video service. Nor could an ISP boost the speed or quality of access to a particular service that is willing to pay more for it.

Those rules are effectively unchanged from the original 2010 Open Internet Order. However, that order was gutted in early 2014 after a legal challenge by Verizon, which claimed the FCC lacked legal authority to regulate broadband. At the time, Internet service was not classified as a “Title II” telecommunications service, but as much more lightly regulated information service.

And so with the 2015 attempt at neutrality, the FCC reclassified broadband to put it under the same regulatory umbrella as telephone service — though FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has repeatedly promised no “utility style regulation” of Internet access.

Several telecom and broadband companies, along with trade groups like USTelecom, have filed suit to challenge, among other things, the FCC’s ability to reclassify broadband as a Title II service.

Those parties, along with the FCC, will get their chance to make their case on Dec. 4 before judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.