December 16, 2019
A coalition of consumer interest groups are attempting to reinvigorate the dying embers of the net neutrality debate with a petition filed with US courts.
Filed in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the very same court which turned down the original appeal in October, the petition has asked the judges to reconsider their decision. The petition suggests the ruling from the October appeal conflicts with the decisions and precedent set by these judges and the Supreme Court in previous competition cases.
“The court unfortunately got it wrong when it upheld the FCC’s decision to arbitrarily side-line itself from protecting consumers’ internet access,” said Ed Black, President of the Computer & Communication Industry Association (CCIA).
“Open access is important for all internet users, and for businesses it supports more competition and innovation by putting the next start-up on equal ground with bigger businesses. With so many politicians calling for more competition and better enforcement, it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to uphold open internet rules which have supported competition.”
Alongside the CCIA, the petition has been filed by the Public Knowledge, Free Press, the Center for Democracy and Technology, New America’s Open Technology Institute and the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society.
Despite numerous challenges from consumer interest groups and Attorney Generals, the net neutrality debate did look to have come to a conclusion. After years of friction, the DC Court of Appeals confirmed in October that the FCC was perfectly within its rights to repeal the net neutrality rules, adding credibility to the assertion from the regulator that competition and fair access to the internet can be retained without the stringent oversight.
Interestingly enough, in the petition filed on Friday, the groups are suggesting the rules and definitions of consumer protection and competition are flawed, as opposed to criticizing the FCC’s ability to enforce them. This is a different strategy from the court proceeding which have been initiated in the past, though whether the consumer groups have enough weight behind them remains to be seen.
The previous cases against the FCC’s dismantling of net neutrality generated momentum thanks to significant support from Big Tech companies, but also from the general public. This support might have forced the hand of some politically-minded bureaucrats, but the courts backed the FCC. Renewed efforts without the previous support might struggle.
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