WASHINGTON — On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard the oral argument in the case brought by Free Press and other Net Neutrality advocates against the Federal Communications Commission.
In December 2017, the agency repealed its 2015 decision adopting strong Net Neutrality protections grounded in Title II of the Communications Act. Free Press’ case was joined with challenges from other stakeholders, including 23 state attorneys general, fellow public-interest groups like Public Knowledge and the Open Technology Institute, and companies including Etsy and Mozilla.
Attorneys representing these entities argued that the FCC abdicated its congressionally mandated responsibility to protect internet users when it ignored the law governing the agency, and when it disregarded evidence that internet-access providers could engage in abusive and discriminatory practices not remedied by other laws or market forces.
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“The appeals court judges today heard in full detail just how awful a job the Trump FCC did. The Commission’s decision to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules was wrong on the law and wrong on the facts.
“The agency also got the process wrong when repealing these rules and the Title II legal framework on which they stood. The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai was unreasonable and arbitrary time and again as it plowed ahead recklessly, committing serious errors by ignoring the laws Congress wrote for the agency to enforce. It also ignored the overwhelming public outcry in favor of preserving these safeguards and refused to investigate the mass of faked comments that undermined the proceeding.
“The FCC’s decision to turn its back on internet users allows powerful phone and cable companies to pursue their narrow economic interests at the expense of an open and nondiscriminatory network. To justify its negligent ruling the agency used shoddy economic analysis and false industry talking points that fabricated stories about Net Neutrality’s allegedly harmful impact on broadband providers’ bottom lines.
“Our attorneys demonstrated that the court should throw out Chairman Pai’s wrongheaded and poorly reasoned decision. The FCC’s 2015 rules, previously upheld by the same appellate court, should be restored. That framework rightly classified internet-access providers as common carriers, and built strong Net Neutrality rules and other communications rights on that foundation. Restoring these rules would ensure that everyone can use the internet without fear of blocking, throttling or other discrimination by ISPs. The 2015 Net Neutrality rules were working for everyone — including the ISPs, which continued to invest in and deploy broadband despite Ajit Pai’s claims to the contrary.
“We remain as confident as ever that this court will return Net Neutrality protections to everyone in the United States, ensuring that the internet remains a space where people can fight for racial and social justice, pursue economic opportunities and engage in political speech without risk of ISP interference.”