Supreme Court rejects industry challenge of 2015 net neutrality rules

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But one order today in particular was significant: The justices declined to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholding the Obama administration's "net neutrality" rules, which (generally speaking) required internet service providers to treat all traffic on the internet equally.

The appeal was unusual in that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules have already been repealed under the current administration, following a Commission vote last December in which members voted 3-2 along party lines.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco said injunctions by three lower courts have prevented the administration from ending the program, which the Trump administration says has only encouraged people to try to enter the United States illegally.

But the Supreme Court today said it has denied petitions filed by AT&T and broadband lobby groups NCTA, CTIA, USTelecom, and the American Cable Association. Justice Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts recused themselves from the vote.

The Supreme Court's brief order noted that Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas granted the industry's request to set aside the decision. It means that the D.C. Circuit's court's 2016 decision to uphold "both the FCC's classification of broadband as a telecommunications service, and its rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking or degrading Internet content, remains in place", senior counsel John Bergmayer of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said.

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Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog explained that Kavanaugh was "expected to recuse himself from voting on the petitions because he had participated in the cases while on the D.C. Circuit, and he did". Regardless, net neutrality supporters were encouraged by the Court's decision.

The new FCC rules went into effect in June.

The case has been before the ninth circuit in San Francisco for six months and the court takes an average of 23 months to issue a final ruling. After the repeal was finalized earlier this year, the FCC and the Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to declare the prior decision "moot" and scrap it.

The FCC's repeal of net neutrality is also the subject of separate legal battles, after it was challenged by tech companies and advocacy groups, in addition to more than 20 USA states.

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