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Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules – CNET

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The U.S. Supreme Court rejected AT&T’s appeal to overturn the 2015 net neutrality rules. 

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations that could have gutted the authority of the Federal Communications Commission.

On Monday the court rejected an appeal that challenged a 2016 decision by the DC Circuit, which upheld the rules to protect an open internet and validated the FCC’s authority to draft such rules.

The 2015 rules were rolled back by the Republican-led FCC last year, and they were officially taken off the books in June. But the Trump administration pushed the Supreme Court to hear the appeal that would have wiped the ruling from the books so that the parts of the decision upholding the FCC’s authority could not be used as precedent in subsequent cases.

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Groups supporting net neutrality and companies like Mozilla, which support the 2015 rules, are suing the FCC over its repeal.

But now the battle of whether the FCC had the right to pass those rules or not is dead. By refusing to hear the appeal, the 2016 decision is left in place.

Is this a big deal? It depends on who you ask. Given that the Republican-led FCC repealed the controversial rules in December, the case is moot. The rules no longer exist anyway.

While the request is somewhat unusual, not many cases upholding government regulation are followed by a repeal of that regulation, some legal experts say remanding the decision is just a bit of legal housecleaning.

But net neutrality supporters disagree. They accuse the Trump administration of tossing out the legal precedent to attempt to set up a better scenario in the next legal battle over the FCC’s 2017 repeal.

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally and that broadband providers should not act as gatekeepers of content or services on the internet. The rules adopted by the FCC in 2015 banned ISPs from blocking or slowing down access to content online. It also prevented them from giving preferential treatment to their own services. The rules also reclassified broadband as a public utility, subjecting ISPs to stricter regulations.

Net neutrality supporters say the rules are needed to keep big broadband providers in check. But the industry says the reclassification of broadband stifled investment and innovation.

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas said they have granted the industry’s request to set aside the decision. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused themselves from the decision of whether to take the case.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion for the 2016 case when he was on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.  Roberts has an investment portfolio that includes telecommunications companies, according to the Associated Press.

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Article credit: https://www.cnet.com/news/supreme-court-declines-to-hear-appeal-of-obama-era-net-neutrality-rules/#ftag=CAD590a51e

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