Court Refuses To Delay Net Neutrality Rules

In a defeat for the cable and telecom industries, a federal appeals court today refused to delay the new net neutrality rules. The move means that the new rules will take effect on Friday.

“This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators!” Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday afternoon in a statement. “Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open.”

The net neutrality rules prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading content and from charging companies higher fees for faster delivery of material. The open Internet order, which the FCC passed in February by a 3-2 vote, also reclassifies broadband as a common carrier service, and broadly prohibits Internet service providers from unreasonably impeding consumers and content providers from reaching each other.

AT&T, Century Link and various trade groups are suing to overturn the rules.

Last month, the telecom and cable industry also asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to immediately block the portion of the net neutrality order that reclassifies broadband as a utility service. The broadband providers did not seek to also stay the prohibitions against blocking and degrading content, or against paid prioritization.

AT&T and the others argued that they will suffer financial loss due to uncertainty over how the new rules -- including privacy rules -- will be implemented. They specifically said that the FCC's decision to treat broadband as a utility also empowers the agency to impose privacy rules that could curb its behavioral advertising efforts, which involve targeting ads to users based on the Web sites they visit.

Net neutrality supporters -- including public interest groups like Public Knowledge and companies like Netflix and Etsy -- also urged the appeals court to reject the carriers' request for a stay.

Proponents of the regulations cheered today's decision by the appeals court. “The news today from the D.C. Circuit Court is clear: the Internet is open for business for everyone,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “Consumers, innovators, activists and entrepreneurs -- anyone who counts on the Internet to connect with the world around them -- will fully benefit from these essential net neutrality protections.”

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