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February 27, 2015 Practice Points

FCC Issues Groundbreaking Internet Rules

The FCC established new rules for Internet broadband based on “net neutrality,” endeavoring to protect openness and access for consumers.

By Justin L. Heather

On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted historic Internet rules based on the principles of “net neutrality.” The FCC designed the rules to provide equal opportunity for Internet speeds and access to websites. The FCC’s press release explained that it “set sustainable rules of the road that will protect free expression and innovation on the Internet and promote investment in the nation’s broadband networks.”

The FCC stated that: “[t]hese new rules are guided by three principles: America’s broadband networks must be fast, fair and open.” (Press Release at 1.) The press release further noted that, in the absence of action by the FCC, Internet openness is placed at risk. Amongst the new rules established, the FCC has set forth bright-line rules including: no blocking access, no throttling traffic, and no paid prioritization. The new rules also reclassify broadband Internet access under Title II of the Communication Act. The new rules also contain provisions for effective enforcement while also allowing for investment and competition through forbearance.

The FCC press release also noted the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Verizon v. FCC, 740 F.3d 623 (D.C. Cir. 2014), whereby the appellate court vacated two of the three orders constituting the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet rules. Indeed, the FCC noted that the new rules respond to the changed Internet landscape, restore the FCC’s legal authority to address threats to Internet openness, and follow a template for sustainability laid out in the Verizon decision. Obviously, only time will tell if the new FCC rules fair better in the judicial system than their predecessors.

Keywords: litigation, FCC, Internet, net neutrality, young lawyers

— Justin L. Heather, YAC Content Manager, The Quinlan Law Firm LLC, Chicago, IL

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