Supreme Court Won't Consider Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules 11/06/2018

A rubber stamp stamping the word

A rubber stamp stamping the word

The legal fight over a 2016 lower court ruling upholding Obama-era net neutrality regulations aimed at ensuring a free and open internet - rules that have since been repealed by President Donald Trump's administration - came to a formal end on Monday, with the US Supreme Court declining to take up the matter.

The Trump administration had warned that it would ask the high court to step in if the appeals court didn't rule by October 31.

A divided high court refused and instead simply rejected the appeals, leaving the 2016 ruling in place.

"Absent prompt intervention from this court, there is little chance the court would resolve this dispute for at least another year", Francisco wrote in a letter to the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused themselves from the case.

The Department of Justice made the request Monday after the lower courts failed to meet a deadline for a decision on DACA.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog explained that Kavanaugh was "expected to recuse himself from voting on the petitions because he had participated in the cases while on the D.C. Circuit, and he did".

That's easily in net neutrality activists' best interest.

"Much of the current FCC's argument [against net neutrality] depends on ignoring or contradicting the DC Circuit's earlier findings, but now that these are firmly established as binding law, the Pai FCC's case is on even weaker ground than before", Bergmayer said. Providers complained that the rules were overly burdensome and a violation of the FCC's congressionally granted powers; consumer advocates said the rules were necessary as a vital consumer protection. The high court doesn't typically take cases before federal appeals courts rule on them.

The Federal Communications Commission voted past year to revoke those rules. In his ruling on U.S. Telecom Association, Kavanaugh called net neutrality "unlawful" as the 1934 Communications Act "does not supply clear congressional authorization for the FCC to impose common carrier regulation" on internet service providers (ISPs).

Though SCOTUS' decision is a win for net neutrality proponents, the Obama-era rules were gutted by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai in December 2017.

The Justice Department has also filed suit to block California's state net neutrality law from taking effect in January.

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