This is why judicial appointments actually matter. In a 2-1 decision today, the DC Court of Appeals struck down the FCC's 2010 ruling on net neutrality, giving a big win to the right wing and corporations.
An appeals court in Washington on Tuesday ruled that the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules, which prevent companies like Verizon from favoring some types of internet traffic over others, are invalid. The 81-page ruling, which was decided by a 2-1 vote with one judge dissenting in part, has big implications for content providers, consumers and the future of the internet. (Here is year-by-year timeline of the legal battles).
In a key passage at the start of the ruling, embedded below, the court wrote:
That said, even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.
The court’s ruling is a game-changer because it upsets the FCC’s current practice of requiring broadband internet providers to act akin to “common carriers.” In plain English, this means that they have had to behave in a similar way to phone companies and not give special preference to one type of call (or traffic) over another.
The DC court was ground zero for Harry Reid's decision to change the filibuster rules, and it's not difficult to understand why. This was decided by a panel of 3 judges on a court skewed by the Bush administration while the Senate stonewalled any and all Obama appointments.
This decision means that companies like Verizon, AT&T, Time-Warner Cable and Comcast will decide which Internet ventures live and die. If they decide they don't like the content on this site, they can meter load times so that we're slow and kludgy while promoting Breitbart on a fast track.
Now that the new FCC head is a former lobbyist for the cable industry, I don't see any pathway to a correction, either. All around, it's a bad day for Internet users, and a great one for large corporate interests.