Net neutrality goes to court

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: A protester holds a sign during a Federal Communications Commission meeting December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. FCC has voted to repeal its net neutrality rules at the meeting. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The open internet goes on trial Friday, as net neutrality advocates face off against the Federal Communications Commission and its decision to gut the open-internet rule. The case, Mozilla Corporation v. FCC, is being heard by a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and it will determine if the FCC acted within its powers to end the protections.

Gigi Sohn, an adviser to the petitioners in the case and former FCC senior adviser to Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler, explains that the FCC under Republican Chairman Ajit Pai violated the letter of the law when it reclassified the internet as an information service rather than a telecommunications service. It was the latter classification that allowed the FCC under Wheeler to impose net neutrality and, more, that original classification was upheld by the same court. “The main argument against, or number one, is the FCC violated the Communications Act when it ruled that broadband internet access service is an information service that has no telecommunications component at all,” Sohn says. The petition describes the FCC’s decision “like categorizing the road to a hotel as the hotel itself.”

Further, the petitioners argue, the FCC’s reversal was “arbitrary and capricious,” and that it used flawed data when it argued that net neutrality had caused companies to reduce investment in broadband. They argue that the scope of this action by the agency is unprecedented, and that the change “swept aside everything in its path, including the law, the facts, reasoned decisionmaking, and the decisions of this Court.”

Mozilla is taking the lead on the case, backed up by 22 state attorneys general and a raft of public advocacy groups.

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