The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] announced [text] Wednesday that it will not appeal the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] decision striking down [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the FCC's rules requiring broadband providers to employ nondiscriminatory practices in the treatment of Internet content. While the appellate court did reaffirm the FCC's authority to regulate broadband access under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 [text, PDF], at issue was whether Internet service providers could charge a company to ensure that customers receive service to that company's website. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler [official profile] stated:
In its Verizon v. FCC decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invited the Commission to act to preserve a free and open Internet. I intend to accept that invitation by proposing rules that will meet the court's test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet Service Providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition. Preserving the Internet as an open platform for innovation and expression while providing certainty and predictability in the marketplace is an important responsibility of this agency.The FCC will now develop new rules [Reuters report] to require Internet traffic transparency from service providers and to ensure no unfair limitations upon a consumer's ability to use the Internet. The new rules are expected to be released in late spring or early summer.
Internet providers have challenged the FCC's net neutrality rules in the past. In April 2011 the DC Circuit granted [JURIST report] a motion by the FCC to dismiss a challenge to the new net neutrality rules. In January 2011 MetroPCS, the fifth-largest cell phone company in the US, filed an appeal [JURIST report] challenging net neutrality rules. In 2010 the DC Circuit also struck down [JURIST report] the FCC's net neutrality rules in the case of Comcast v. FCC, holding that the FCC lacks authority to require broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. Following the Comcast decision, some commentators have argued [JURIST op-ed] that because providers, and cable operators in particular, have never possessed bottleneck monopoly power previously that the FCC should be more willing to avoid placing restrictions on them.