Tech Companies, Advocates Seek New Hearing On Net Neutrality Repeal

Tech companies and advocacy groups are asking an appellate court to reconsider their request to reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

“Broadband access is the key communications service of our time, providing consumers with an onramp to the power of the Internet,” web developer Mozilla, online video company Vimeo and crafts marketplace Etsy argue in papers filed Friday with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The companies add that the Federal Communications Commission's recent repeal of the rules empowers broadband carriers to “block or throttle Internet access, demand pay-to-play ransom from Internet edge providers, or otherwise interfere with end users’ access to the Internet.”

The legal dispute centers on the FCC's 2017 decision to repeal a set of regulations that prohibited broadband carriers from blocking or throttling online traffic, and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.

Those regulations, passed by the Obama-era FCC in 2015, were upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals the following year.

In 2017, the Republican-controlled FCC revoked the rules. Chairman Ajit Pai, who shepherded the repeal, said the former rules were “heavy handed” and depressed investment.

Net neutrality proponents say the rules were necessary to prevent broadband providers from limiting consumers' ability to access streaming video, search engines and other online services and content.

A coalition of tech companies, consumer advocacy groups, state attorneys general and city officials challenged the repeal in court, arguing that the FCC didn't offer good reasons for the decision to reverse course.

In October, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC's decision to revoke the prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

Net neutrality advocates, including Mozilla and consumer organizations like Free Press and Public Knowledge, are now asking the entire appellate court to hear the case.

Mozilla, Vimeo and Etsy argue in a joint papers that reversal “is warranted because the decision presents an issue of exceptional importance, as it affirms the reversal of U.S. policies promoting the open Internet ... with ramifications for consumers and Internet companies nationwide.”

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