Court Limits FCC’s Ability To Stop Broadband Providers From Discriminating Against Internet Conten
ACLU Calls For Restoration Of Net Neutrality Principles
NEW YORK - A
federal appeals court today ruled that the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) cannot require broadband service providers to treat
all lawful Internet content equally. The decision rendered the FCC
unable to enforce “network neutrality,” the principle that Internet
users have the right to use applications and access and transmit data
of their choice free of discrimination by network providers.
“The Internet has long grown and flourished under the principles of net
neutrality, but without anyone to enforce those principles, network
providers will be free to discriminate against any lawful content they
choose – becoming gatekeepers who can control what information and
services the public can access online,” said Jay Stanley, Senior Policy
Analyst with the ACLU Speech, Technology, and Liberty program.
“Immediate restoration of well-established net neutrality principles is
necessary to protect freedom and innovation on the Internet.”
Today’s ruling came in Comcast v. FCC, in which the nation’s largest
cable company challenged the FCC’s authority to enforce net neutrality
after Comcast was discovered to have been disrupting operation of the
software program BitTorrent independently of any network congestion.
Specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
ruled that under Title I of the Communications Act, the FCC cannot stop
Internet providers from giving preferential treatment to the Internet
content or applications of their choice by, for example, allowing some
content to reach customers speedily while slowing down or even blocking
In 2005, the FCC decided to regulate the Internet as an “information
service” under Title I of the Communications Act, allowing broadband
providers to pick and choose which services and information to
transmit. That same year, the ACLU argued in the Brand X Supreme Court
case that broadband providers should be regulated under Title II, which
would protect against discrimination. While today’s ruling found that
the FCC had exceeded its authority under Title I, the FCC can still
choose to regulate network providers under Title II.
“In order to protect freedom and innovation on the Internet, the FCC
should re-establish its regulatory authority under Title II of the
Communications Act and require broadband providers to give
nondiscriminatory access to all lawful services, information and
equipment,” said Stanley.
More information about the ACLU’s work to restore net neutrality is online at: www.aclu.org/free-speech/net-
Information about the ACLU’s participation in the Brand X Supreme Court case is available at: www.aclu.org/free-speech/fcc-
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.