Supreme Court Nixes Net Neutrality Challenge


The Supreme Court has denied a petition from AT&T and broadband lobby groups NCTA, CTIA, USTelecom, and the American Cable Association to overturn Obama era Net Neutrality rules. Although net neutrality was already overturned by the FCC when the administration changed hands, the broadband industry continued with its case in an effort to overturn lower court decisions that kept the legal basis for the rules in place.

According to a Bloomberg report, two justices – Chief Justice Roberts and newly appointed Justice Kavanaugh recused themselves from the case which meant that there weren’t enough justices that agreed to move the case forward.

Because the petition didn’t move forward, the D.C. Circuit Court ruling which upholds the original rules and legal definitions of broadband service will apply. That means that it will be more difficult for the broadband industry to argue that broadband isn’t a telecommunications service. Broadband providers have argued that net neutrality violates their first amendment rights because broadband access isn’t a telecommunications service and is instead a content platform that they should be able to control as needed.

Today’s decision does not mean that the fight over net neutrality is over, however. The FCC is also defending its decision to repeal in lawsuits filed by net neutrality advocacy groups who may have gotten some unexpected support from the denial.

In a statement, John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at Public Knowledge, one such advocacy group said, “Much of the current FCC’s argument depends on ignoring or contradicting the D.C. Circuit’s earlier findings, but now that these are firmly established as binding law, the Pai FCC’s case is on even weaker ground than before.”

The FCC is also involved in lawsuits against states that attempted to implement net neutrality as a local rule in lieu of the federal rules. Those cases may go as far as the Supreme Court if either side decides to appeal lower court rulings as they are made.