Court rules in favor of net neutrality

A Georgia Watch Court Watch Report

By 2016 Georgia Watch Intern Blake Kilday, J.D. Candidate, Georgia State University School of Law, Class of 2017

June 15, 2016 – Yesterday, in a significant decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a 184-page ruling making net neutrality and Title II the law of the land.  The court’s decision grants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authority to enforce its Open Internet Order, and protect consumers from potential abuse from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

What does this mean for you?  Millions of consumers spoke out in favor of net neutrality in a focused effort to stop ISPs from manipulating information on the internet.  The ruling causes the internet to be classified as a utility, making ISPs like Comcast and AT&T “common carriers.”  In effect, the ruling affirms the FCC’s opinion that access to the internet is as basic a need for all people as telephone and electric service.  In ruling ISPs to be common carriers, the court rejected the industry’s argument that ISPs are similar to newspaper editors in their ability to edit content traveling through their networks.  Additionally, these companies will not be able to filter or block access to content for some customers while offering more favorable treatment or “internet fast-lanes” to customers who pay more. This ruling firmly establishes the internet as an environment grounded in free speech, where open communication must remain untainted by the companies entrusted to transfer information.

Though this is an important victory for American consumers, the legal battle over net neutrality will likely continue.  In response to the ruling, senior executive vice president and general counsel for AT&T stated, “We have always expected this issue to be decided in the Supreme Court and we look forward to participating in that appeal.”  Georgia Watch is committed to protecting the interests of Georgia consumers, and will follow and report on any further action regarding net neutrality.