To the dismay of open internet activists around the world, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repeal of Net Neutrality rules will stand, even as it struck down federal preemption of state regulations. This silver lining is reason to celebrate, as it means that states can write their own more robust and rights-protecting legislation despite federal negligence in protecting the open internet.
What is more, evidence is mounting that Net Neutrality regulations do not harm investment in internet infrastructure. An exhaustive new study finds that the rules “had no meaningful impact on broadband investment,” despite claims by industry lobbyists and FCC Chair Ajit Pai to the contrary.
In the U.S., the fight for data protection has taken place in the states when the federal government has failed to act, and it looks like the battle for Net Neutrality will take the same path. Indeed, at the national level, the U.S. is bucking the global trend toward protecting the open internet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already stated that the Save the Internet Act would be “dead on arrival” to the Senate floor, so the current outlook for passage of a federal Net Neutrality law is worse than bleak.
California is a national leader in both the battle for data protection and a free and open internet, among other policies. In addition to passing the landmark California Consumer Privacy Act, the state passed its own Net Neutrality rules in 2018, but did not enforce them due to a legal challenge that is currently on hold. But don’t get too excited: this week’s ruling is likely to be challenged and reconsidered by the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and may even end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. That means California will unfortunately need to continue to hold off on implementation.
In the meantime, many of us expect (and strongly hope) that more states will step up to the plate to stop network discrimination. Like California, Hawaii, Montana, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Rhode Island, Montana, Vermont, and Colorado have all enacted Net Neutrality rules.
This is the time to reignite the fight for the free and open internet, which is vital for the human right to free expression in the U.S. and across the globe. We hope you join us as we press on in our efforts to defend Net Neutrality, to help build a digital future in which our voices can be heard without pay-for-play access to an audience online, freedom of expression is respected, and our spaces to create and innovate are preserved.