Ajit Pai’s FCC Tells Court it Has No “Legal Authority” to Impose Net Neutrality Rules
The FCC opened the defense of its net neutrality repeal last Thursday by telling a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that it has no authority to keep the net neutrality rules in place. Chairman Ajit Pai claims the FCC can both repeal its own rules and preempt states from enacting similar ones because broadband is an interstate service and state rules conflict with the "federal policy of nonregulation." As an information service, broadband cannot be subject to common carrier regulations such as net neutrality rules, Pai argues. The FCC is only allowed to impose common carrier regulations on telecommunications services. California forged ahead, adopting a law of its own and triggering a lawsuit from the Justice Department earlier this month. The agency said its evidence showed the Obama-era net neutrality rules had stifled investment in broadband expansion, justifying the decision to wipe the protections off its books. This now sets the stage for a heated legal battle over the government’s ability to regulate the Internet. At the heart of the fight is how, exactly, the government characterizes broadband Internet access provided by telecom giants such as AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon. State attorneys general, consumer advocates, and top tech companies have sharply rebuked the FCC’s rationale for eliminating net neutrality rules. Telecom giants have backed the Trump administration’s move. But other tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are fighting Pai’s repeal and filed their own brief with the DC court in August under the banner of their lobbying groups, including the Internet Association. More here.