The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled against states being able to pass their own net neutrality laws, reports Reuters. This decision comes two years after the repeal of laws that disallowed providers from slowing down internet connections, opening the floodgates for favoritism of some websites over others.
The Federal Communications Commission, however, may consider the rollback’s impact on first responders and those relying on government-subsidized broadband internet. One example of this includes Lifeline, a government program that provides internet access to those earning low-incomes, reports The Los Angeles Times. The FCC can also block individual state laws on a case-by-case basis.
Another aspect of this decision allows the FCC to repeal net neutrality rules. Verizon Communications Inc. issued a statement saying the decision “underscores the need for Congress to adopt national legislation that provides protections for consumers while avoiding a disruptive, inconsistent patchwork of state Internet regulation.” As a result of the decision, the price of internet connection could raise for consumers.
According to The Hill, this suit was brought by internet companies, consumers, and over 20 states angered by the repeal who argued that the FCC misjudged the severity of rollbacks it could impose.
The Trump administration appointed a “more industry-friendly” FCC Chairman, former Associate General Counsel at Verizon Communications and Senior Counsel at the Department of Justice Ajit Pai. According to USA Today, Pai has a record of fighting against net neutrality rules, most recently arguing that they decrease the likelihood of investment in certain networks and impede companies’ right to competitive practices.
Net neutrality is a hot topic of debate and has been for the last decade. Congress remains unable to pass any legislation that protects internet connection for U.S. citizens, as the issue has slowly become partisan. House Democrats recently voted to reinstate Obama-era rules on net neutrality, but this has not been presented to a majority-Republican Senate and the White House, which is threatening to veto the bill, reports The Hill.
One example of the issue this could impose on society are the California wildfires in 2018. According to Human Rights Watch, one fire department’s ability to fend off fires was impeded by limited data access, which their internet provider purposefully slowed until the department switched to a more expensive plan.
As a result, California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington composed their own net neutrality laws in addition to pre-existing federal laws.
Eric Null, a senior policy counsel at New America’s Open Technology Institute, argues that administrations have been debating net neutrality and it is time to put an end to it with specific, protective legislation. He states, “broadband providers have been on good behavior while rules have been up in the air because of the lawsuit and that without federal regulations there is nothing keeping them in check.”