The DC Circuit has decided in favor of net neutrality in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC. This cements a decisive victory for the millions of people, companies, websites, and organizations who worked together to secure strong protections for the open Internet against one of the biggest lobbies in the United States.
WASHINGTON––The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s use of the legal authority behind its Open Internet Order today. The decision comes after a long-fought battle between major telecommunications services and millions of open Internet advocates from across the political spectrum.
Fight for the Future, the prominent digital rights group best known for their role in spearheading the massive online and offline net neutrality protests, including sit-ins in front of the FCC and the Internet Slowdown which broke a one-day comment submission record to the FCC, celebrates this dramatic victory. The Battle for the Net campaign, spearheaded by Fight for the Future, lead to over 4 million public comments submitted to the FCC, setting a new record for public engagement in a FCC proceeding. The campaign also generated more than 10 million emails to Congress, and 500,000 calls to Congress and the FCC.
Fight for the Future and many other civil rights and digital rights groups mobilized millions of people and thousands of companies to call on the FCC to use their legal authority to enact the most legally-defensible and strongest protections for net neutrality, which required the reclassification of ISP’s as Title II Telecommunications services. The FCC, headed by Chairman Tom Wheeler, voted for the Open Internet Order in February 2015. The US Telecommunications Association brought a suit against this order shortly after. Now, over a year later, the DC Circuit has decided in favor of the FCC. The group’s representatives issued the following statements about today’s historic victory:
“In 2015, startups, investors, activists, academics, policymakers, and millions of individuals joined together in agreement that net neutrality was vitally important, and that Title II was the best, most legally sound way to do it.” said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight for the Future. “Now, the courts agree with us too. This victory means that people all over the world can rely on smart policies in the US to protect the Internet as a platform for freedom of expression, economic growth, and social change.”
“The people have spoken. The courts have spoken. Cable giants like Comcast need to get over it and start actually providing great Internet service—not mounting these sneaky attacks in Congress, using lobbying dollars to turn Congress against the will of the people,” said Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer.
“Today, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit confirmed what Fight for the Future and our allies have argued for years: The Federal Communications Commission has the power to apply the strongest powers it has in the interest of guaranteeing an open and free Internet.”
“This is the largest victory against monopolies this decade. Big telecom lost the number one handout they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying for over the last ten years,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, Co-Director of Fight for the Future. “They were able to skirt net neutrality rules by successfully lobbying the FCC to pretend they’re not monopolies or telecommunications services. After four million people and thousands of companies worked tirelessly to show that this handout was bad for everyone but the ISPs, we were able to defeat one of the biggest and fiercest lobbies in the US. This watershed victory is testament to the ability of people to organize using the Internet against corruption and the status quo.”
Now, all eyes turn towards Europe, where a coalition of activists and policy experts rallying as SaveTheInternet.eu are in the final weeks of a years-long push for net neutrality rules covering the entire European Union. These coming weeks will determine whether European regulator BEREC matches or surpasses the US rules, or whether they fall short in the face of strong lobbying pressure from powerful European telecoms. Right now, BEREC has an open public consultation that runs until July 18th (analogous to the FCC comment periods which drew millions of submissions.) Fight for the Future will work with EU activists to launch a massive day of action to deliver hundreds of thousands of public comments to BEREC.
Additionally, the FCC is currently developing rules for zero rating plans, in particular. The FCC’s Open Internet Order allowed an examination of zero ratings programs on a case by case basis. A letter from companies and organizations and 100,000’s of people has been sent to the FCC calling for an open process to examine these plans, including programs such as Comcast’s preferential treatment for their own content, or AT&T and Verizon’s program that exclude paying websites from data caps.