A panel of federal judges has voted to uphold the FCC’s Open Internet Order to treat Internet service providers as common carrier utility service providers subject to anti-blocking and discrimination rules. The ruling is likely to be appealed by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other telecom companies to the Supreme Court, but it represents a major victory for net neutrality advocates and the FCC.
“After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections — both on fixed and mobile networks — that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web.”
Besides prohibiting blocking, throttling and paid prioritization the FCC is also considering additional privacy protections that would limit the data ISPs can mine and share about their customers. The practice of "zero rating" is not affected by the Open Internet Order, however. According to Wheeler, there are some aspects of it that are good and others that are not so good, and it's their job now to figure out how to deal with zero rating.
Telecommunication companies were not only challenging the FCC’s authority to impose these rules, they also claimed that certain services they offered as part of the Internet bundle, such as email, should be considered "information services"rather than as "telecommunications services," which are policed more strictly.
AT&T has already commented on today's ruling saying they've always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and they will be participating in that appeal.