Published: Thu, November 08, 2018
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

SCOTUS Refuses to Hear Appeal of Net Neutrality

SCOTUS Refuses to Hear Appeal of Net Neutrality

But, last August, lawyers for the FCC and Department of Justice (at direct telecom industry behest) filed a brief (pdf) with the Supreme Court, urging it to vacate the 2016 court ruling that upheld the Wheeler-era net neutrality rules.

The decision [PDF] removes one piece of a jigsaw of legal cases working their way through the law courts that challenge both the 2015 rules - introduced during the Obama Administration under FCC chair Tom Wheeler - and the more recent 2018 rules - introduced during the Trump Administration by FCC chair Ajit Pai. The Supreme Court's rejection of this appeal ensures the D.C. Circuit's decision remains in the record as binding precedent for the FCC's authority to adopt strong net neutrality rules.

The court on Monday rejected appeals from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court ruling in favor of the "net neutrality" rules. Roberts owned stock in AT&T-owned Time Warner, while Kavanaugh took part in the case when he was a judge on the DC Circuit appeals court, Bloomberg Supreme Court Reporter Greg Stohr noted. Four of nine justices must agree to hear a case, but only three voted to grant the petitions.

In this October 9, 2018 photo, police office guards the main entrance to the Supreme Court in Washington. Neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor new Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh participated in the decision. They have not been in effect since June. Neither gave a reason, but Kavanaugh played a role in the case on the appeals court, saying he would have overturned the net neutrality rule.

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With those justices removing themselves from the process, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch were outnumbered.

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Net neutrality has become a rallying cry for internet activists and those on the political left, who say that if companies are able to "throttle" traffic to and from some sites, then it would ruin the free-flowing nature of the online community. Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom, and other supporters of the Restoring Internet Freedom order, which negated net neutrality, believe broadband is an information service.

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