A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Trump Federal Communications Commission rolling back Obama-era internet regulations.
My colleague Charlotte Hayes reported today on the case overall, but some news outlets are calling it a “mixed” victory, but it’s really not that mixed. This was a win for the FCC and for opponents of harmful net neutrality internet regulations.
Here’s what the court’s decision means for the future of net neutrality:
Net neutrality regs are dead. The court affirmed that the FCC was well within its power to roll back the Obama net neutrality regulations that began by reclassifying broadband internet as a utility like telephone service and introduced new rules for broadband companies like Comcast and Verizon to follow on how they could deliver services. These federal regulations were overturned. Unless Congress chooses to act or a future FCC under new leadership reintroduces them, they are dead.
Net neutrality regs chilled broadband investment. The court found the data indicating falling broadband investment compelling. The current FCC demonstrated that investment in broadband fell by over 5 percent or $3 billion in the first two years of the Obama net neutrality regulations. Once they were repealed in 2018, investment has picked back up. For those who think heavy-handed regulations are good for innovation, they should take note.
Net neutrality regs at a state level are possible but are not guaranteed to survive. The appellate court did overturn the FCC’s effort to blanket “preempt” all states and localities from passing their own tougher net neutrality regulations. However, they left open the door for the FCC to challenge regulations on a state-by-state basis. California is the only state–so far– to pass it’s own net neutrality regulations, which are quite similar to the federal regulations, and the state's attorney general vows to keep fighting. Other states may also test the waters. Future litigation is almost guaranteed.
Bottom line: The court’s decision was a win for the FCC and or those who believe that the internet will continue to flourish and thrive under a light regulatory touch rather than the heavy hand of government.
One additional note: The fearmongering and outright lies perpetuated by net neutrality supporters have been damaging, but their own case was undermined when their apocalyptic predictions never came to fruition.
Celebrities, lawmakers, and activists on the left claimed that the rollback of net neutrality would lead to disastrous results for consumers. They claimed that we would all be subject to the dreaded spinning death wheels of buffering websites. Internet traffic would slow to a crawl as internet providers would slow our internet service.
The day after net neutrality was repealed nothing happened. The internet operated just as it had before. Even better, internet speeds have accelerated. As I reported in April, U.S internet speeds jumped from 12th fastest to 6th fastest in the world from the time net neutrality regulations were repealed.
The internet worked just fine before net neutrality regulations, and it will continue to work just fine now that they are gone.