Appeal Court Upholds Repeal of Net Neutrality Laws, but Permits States to Set Their Own Rules

Adi Robertson, the Verge:

The court said the FCC exhibited “disregard of its duty” to evaluate how its rule change would affect public safety. Public safety was a key issue in a hearing earlier this year, with net neutrality advocates arguing that the FCC’s decision let ISPs throttle first responders’ data — something that happened in California last year. “The harms from blocking and throttling during a public safety emergency are irreparable. People could be injured or die,” reads the ruling, which orders the FCC to address these safety concerns.

The FCC also didn’t sufficiently explain what the rules would mean for utility pole access — which can make it easier for new competitors to set up internet service networks — and didn’t address concerns about how the change would affect the Lifeline internet access program for low-income Americans.

And most notably, the court vacated a section of the rules that let the FCC preempt any stricter state net neutrality laws. The FCC has previously filed suit against states that passed their own net neutrality rules.

The court was not persuaded of the wrongness of the FCC’s arguments that Title II classification suppressed ISP investment; you can read their ruling on those claims starting on page 74. However, several studies have found no evidence to support reduced ISP investment in broadband. The court’s ruling today did not explicitly support the FCC’s position — coincidentally, I’m sure, the same as that of ISPs — only finding that it was “reasonable” for them to argue that. Which, well, sure. But it certainly isn’t borne out by the evidence so far.