U.S. Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeals after year delay

AFP  Getty Images

AFP Getty Images

The Trump administration was on the side of the FCC and supported the industry's request that the Supreme Court vacate the original ruling that legitimized net neutrality under President Obama.

Three members of the Supreme Court - Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch - said they would have instead vacated the appeals court decision as moot, presumably because the commission reversed itself a year ago, after a change in its membership. The Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump has rolled back the rules, but the industry also wanted to wipe the court ruling off the books. Francisco told the Court Monday he believes the matter would be ready to be fully considered for the Court's January 4, 2019 conference and, should the justices decide to take the case, oral arguments in April, with a decision to follow before the Court's term ends in June. Chief Justice John Roberts and new Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh were both recused from the case. But today the Supreme Court refused to do so.

The legal moves reflected a desire by conservatives and industry players to cement the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules, which were created to restrict Internet service providers' ability to manipulate loading speeds for specific websites or apps.

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The FCC rules forbade carriers from blocking or slowing down websites, and also prohibited them from offering websites faster delivery to consumers in exchange for new, additional fees. In a related case, California's decision to impose state-level net neutrality rules is being challenged by the broadband industry and Trump administration. Four of nine justices must agree to hear a case, but only three voted to grant the petitions.

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Unless the Court directs otherwise, the challengers in each case should have have 30 days to file their briefs opposing its review. By declining all seven petitions, the Supreme Court maintains the lower courts' precedents declaring net neutrality a lawful federal regulation.

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