A federal court on Thursday denied a request to block new net neutrality rules, marking an early victory for the Federal Communications Commission and its open internet regulations, which are scheduled to take effect Friday.
Opponents of the FCC's policy, including AT&T and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, sought to suspend the rules until a final ruling by a three-judge panel is reached. Critics argue that net neutrality will stifle investment and broadband deployment; they also dispute the FCC's authority to reclassify carriers under a more tightly controlled regulatory regime. However, the court found that the requests had "not satisfied the stringent requirements" needed to block the rules while the case is still pending. The appeals court is expected to complete its review next year.
"This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators!" said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open." The commission and its allies have maintained that net neutrality is a necessary check on excessive corporate power, protecting consumers from abusive pricing schemes and data discrimination.
Even as net neutrality goes into effect, granting the FCC greater powers to regulate internet service providers, opponents plan to continue challenging the rules in court. "The case is just beginning and the stakes are high," said Meredith Attwell Baker, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association.
Proponents of the new regulations are pleased with the ruling, but also recognize the legal fight ahead. Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, an organization that is supporting the FCC in court, told BuzzFeed News that while the FCC can still lose the case, this is a good sign for his side. The ruling "clearly shows the court does not believe this is a slam dunk for the carriers," he said. "But this is only the first round. We are going to have to be equally on our game to defend this in court."