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The Fate of Net Neutrality Hinges on the House

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WASHINGTON — On Friday, Free Press filed a Supreme Court brief in opposition to the cable-and-phone lobby’s continued attack on the strong Net Neutrality rules the previous FCC adopted in 2015.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld those rules twice — first in 2016 in a panel decision that affirmed the protections as well as the FCC’s return to a Title II legal classification for broadband; and then in a 2017 en banc decision by the full D.C. Circuit that rejected the ISPs’ challenge to that win.

The arrival of the Trump administration changed the leadership at the FCC, and Chairman Ajit Pai decided to repeal the 2015 rules and classification. Yet the cable-and-phone lobby has continued its court challenge to the FCC’s 2015 order.

The ISPs’ trade associations, joined by AT&T and a handful of additional open-internet opponents, asked the Supreme Court last year to grant certiorari, review the D.C. Circuit’s rulings, and vacate those well-reasoned decisions. The high court could decide in the next few months whether to hear the case, reject the ISPs’ request or render some other decision.

Free Press opposed the ISPs’ request for Supreme Court review, explaining that there is no reason to grant cert. There is no conflict between different appellate circuits’ decisions, nor any conflict between the D.C. Circuit’s decision and controlling Supreme Court precedent.

As Free Press’ brief explains, the ISPs’ argument is just another attack on the validity of the 2015 rules: “That leaves the claim — commonly asserted in petitions destined for denial — that the decision was wrong and will lead to harmful consequences. But those assertions are baseless as well.”

The full Free Press filing is available here: https://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/2018-09/free_press_supreme_court_brief_in_opposition_to_review.pdf

Fellow open-internet advocates, including the Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge, explained in a separate brief that the Pai FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal the rules should have no bearing on the Supreme Court’s decision in this case.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“It’s not enough for AT&T and Comcast to get the Pai FCC to destroy the vital and immensely popular Net Neutrality rules. The lobbyists and lawyers for these companies have also continued their futile attempts to cast aside earlier court victories that upheld the 2015 open-internet rules and the legal framework for them.

“As Free Press’ brief today explains, there is absolutely no reason for the Supreme Court to take this case, or to upset the good court rulings affirming the 2015 rules and Title II. It’s strange and downright offensive to hear ISPs claim that they support Net Neutrality when they seize any chance they can to undermine it in the courts and Congress. We’ll continue to fight against the ISPs’ nonsense arguments and fight for the open internet in every forum we need to.”

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