A US court today threw out Federal Communications Commission rules that require Internet service providers to give all traffic equal access through their networks.
The decision by a federal appeals court could let Internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T charge content companies — say ESPN or Facebook — to deliver their data to consumers at a faster speed, said the New York Times.
Verizon and others have spent billions of dollars building their networks. They say they should be able to manage their pipelines as they see fit.
But the F.C.C. and consumer advocates said content providers should have equal access to those networks to encourage competition, otherwise the richest companies will have an unfair advantage.
The court said that the commission overstepped its authority when it imposed anti-discrimination rules on Internet service providers, because it had previously exempted those companies from such regulation.
Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said the agency may appeal the ruling.
It is unclear how the F.C.C. will respond, said the NYT. The commission could now reclassify Internet service as a utility, much like telephone or electric service.
Consumer groups want that. But the commission has faced fierce opposition from Congress and heavy lobbying by broadband providers against doing so.
Tom Wheeler said, "I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment.
“We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.”
Several years ago the F.C.C. classified Internet service as an “information service” rather than as a “telecommunications service” the commission’s so-called net neutrality rules were invalid said the court.
“Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers” – that is, telephone companies – “the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such,” the court wrote.