Appeals Court Denies First Attempt to Halt FCC's Net Neutrality Rules

Telecoms will continue to challenge, but the rules go into effect on Friday.
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FCC's Tom Wheeler

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has paved the way for the Federal Communications Commission to begin implementing its net neutrality rules after denying a motion for a stay.

The short order on Thursday by a panel of circuit judges comes after the FCC approved in February changes including a ban on paid prioritization of internet traffic. The media regulator did this by reclassifying internet service as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

That's led to more than a half dozen legal challenges from telecom trade associations and companies including AT&T and Alamo Broadband.

The DC Circuit will be hearing arguments that the FCC has exceeded its authority and violated the First and Fifth Amendment rights of the telecoms. But the judges there won't stop the FCC from enacting regulations scheduled to go in effect on Friday.

The cases will still get expedited. The FCC didn't object to a sooner-rather-than-later review, and the DC Court has granted a motion for expedition. Circuit judges Thomas Griffith, Sri Srinivasan and Cornelia Pillard were the ones to deny the stay, though they aren't necessarily the panel who will be adjudicating the challenge to net neutrality on the merits of the arguments.

The DC Circuit put the FCC on the path towards strong net neutrality rules by throwing out the agency's older rules in January 2014.

Today's order comes just as the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is working on a spending bill that would block money for FCC enforcement of the net neutrality rules.

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