Net Neutrality Advocates Take Victory Lap

Network neutrality advocates, including the FCC Democrats who voted for the FCC's rules, were declaring victory Tuesday, and with reason, given a D.C. federal appeals court rejection of a host of challenges to the FCC's Title II-based Open Internet order.

"The internet is the most dynamic platform for free speech ever invented and our internet economy is the envy of the world," said FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "Today’s decision supports internet principles of fairness and openness—the principles that keep us innovative, fierce, and creative.”

Related: Democrats Jubilant Over Net Neutrality Ruling

“Today’s D.C. Circuit court decision represents a resounding victory for the American people," said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who joined with Rosenworcel to support the chairman in adopting the rules. "The Commission relied on a voluminous record, which included more than four million comments, and demonstrated that a free and open internet is at the very heart of our American democracy.  I am particularly pleased that the court upheld protections for mobile consumers, something for which I fought mightily during the lead-up to the Commission’s vote last year.  The Court’s validation of that position makes clear that no matter how one accesses the internet, it will remain an open platform that enables free speech, freedom of expression and innovation to flourish."   

“The third time was the charm," said Pantelis Michalopoulos, who argued before the court in support of the FCC rules and for intervenors in support of the FCC including Netflix, Dish and Comptel. "The open Internet rules are here to stay. Often in Washington, it is tough to discern who won or lost. That was the case with the Verizon case in 2014: the court said the FCC had the authority to make open Internet rules, but had to go back to the drawing board.  This time there is no doubt who is the winner:  the open Internet. The gatekeepers may not block or throttle our information. They may not ask information to pay tolls. They may do nothing that unreasonably disadvantages users or content providers. And our iPhone is as safe as our PC: wireless Internet access providers are subject to the rules too.”

Related: Title II Decision Draws Jeers From ISPs, GOP

"Today’s appeals court decision underscores what’s possible when millions of consumers unite to be heard and government officials listen," said Netflix, which has argued the FCC should regulate interconnection agreements. "By upholding all parts of the FCC’s net neutrality approach, the appeals court settled two decades of debate and legal uncertainty by ensuring the Internet remains open to all. The Court went out of its way to define interconnection as a central part of Net Neutrality, ensuring that providers like Netflix will be able to reach consumers without ISP interference. Now the FCC has clear authority to hold ISPs to these openness rules and turn its attention to policies that support an affordable, faster Internet."

"The internet has become our nation’s public square and with today’s ruling the court has affirmed that it must be open to everyone," said newly appointed Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn. "That is particularly important in this election year. Every American has a right to know who is behind all the political money trying to influence our government, and a right to access alternative forms of media to make informed votes. In upholding the FCC's open internet rules, the judges have ensured that the Internet Service Providers we rely on to deliver broadband to our homes and business cannot play gatekeeper by blocking access or establishing fast and slow lanes for the flow of information."

“Today’s ruling is a great victory for the millions and millions of internet users who have fought for years for Net Neutrality," Free Press president Craig Aaron. "They have fought to ensure that the FCC has the power to protect everyone’s right to connect and communicate online. The court upheld the agency’s clear authority to prevent internet service providers from unfairly interfering with our communications. It confirmed that this authority stands on bedrock communications law and recognized the vital role that the open internet plays in our society. Today’s ruling proves the FCC chose the correct legal path to protect internet users from discrimination by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other broadband providers. The agency can now stay focused on safeguarding the open communications networks that power our democracy and our economy and on promoting broadband competition, privacy and affordable internet access for everyone."

“This decision is a tremendous victory for free speech and democracy — and a huge setback for cable’s attempts to constrain online speech for private profit," said Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal. "Net Neutrality means that ordinary people, bloggers, artists, activists, small businesses, startups, and others will have as much right to share their ideas and creations with the world as do the biggest multinational corporations — and that rank-and-file Internet users will be able to access all of it."

“This is a huge, historic victory for all Internet users," said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. "This affirmation of the FCC’s Open Internet Order ensures that the Internet will remain an open platform that empowers consumers, supercharges competition and serves as a catalyst for economic growth," he said. "We hope Congress will now support the FCC as it seeks to effectively implement its Open Internet Order."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.