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October 1, 2019; National Journal, Politico, and the Verge

The effort to restore the standard of net neutrality was dealt another blow on Tuesday, October 1st, when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against web pioneer Mozilla in its case against the Federal Communications Commission.

A three-judge panel upheld the FCC’s decision in 2017 to remove a set of protections put in place to ensure an internet free of price-based throttling and preferential treatment for larger sites. However, they did point out places where the Commission’s act was unsupportable, including a failure to address the needs of public safety when it comes to intentionally slowed broadband speeds. More interesting is a call that the FCC doesn’t have the power to preemptively stop efforts to establish net neutrality in individual states, as California is trying to do.

The ruling, which the National Journal describes as one where both sides could claim a victory, has elicited the usual kinds of public commentary. Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai called the decision “a big victory for consumers” and looks forward to addressing the Court’s complaints on remand. On the other side, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel contends, “When the FCC rolled back net neutrality it was on the wrong side of the American people and the wrong side of history. [Tuesday’s] court decision shows that the agency also got it wrong on the law.” And the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a longtime nonprofit advocate for net neutrality, said, “We’re disappointed. The FCC is supposed to be the expert agency on telecommunications, but in the case of the so-called ‘Save the Internet Order,’ it ignored expertise and issued an order based on a wrong interpretation of the technical realities of the Internet. But we’re very pleased that the court’s ruling gives states a chance to limit the damage.”

Evan Greer, the deputy director at Fight for the Future, thinks net neutrality is still a cause worth fighting for, and hopes the Save the Internet Act will set things right.

More and more, people are realizing there are things they hate about the Internet. But net neutrality is the basic principle that makes possible all the stuff we actually love about the Internet. It’s the foundation of online freedom, creativity, and fairness. The battle for the future of the web is a defining issue of our generation, and this court decision should light a fire under all of us. Internet: get ready to fight.

“All eyes are now on the Senate to do its job and pass the Save The Internet Act to fully restore net neutrality. Mitch McConnell and senators opposing net neutrality have absolutely no excuse. If they don’t allow a vote on the bill to restore the open Internet, they’re exposing themselves as corrupt shills for the telecom industry. Similarly, every single 2020 presidential candidate must immediately commit to fully restoring net neutrality protections if elected.

The Save the Internet Act is currently in the hands of the US Senate, where it lies stalled.—Jason Schneiderman