US court: FCC had the right to dump net-neutrality rules

A federal court is ruling that the Federal Communications Commission had the right to dump net-neutrality rules, but couldn't bar states like California from passing their own.

The ruling is largely a victory for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump administration appointee, who championed a repeal of the Obama-era rules.

The 2015 net neutrality rules had barred internet providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking, slowing down or charging internet companies to favor some sites or apps over others.

Without these rules, phone and cable companies can interfere with internet traffic as long as they disclose it.

Tuesday's decision came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Net neutrality has evolved from a technical concept into a politically charged issue, the focus of street and online protests and a campaign issue lobbed against Republicans and the Trump administration.

The FCC has long mulled over how to enforce it. The agency had twice lost in court over net-neutrality standards before a Democrat-led commission in 2015 voted in a regime that made internet service a utility, bringing phone and cable companies under stricter oversight.

The telecom industry sued that step but lost. An appeals court sanctioned the 2015 rules.

After the 2016 election, President Donald Trump appointed a more industry-friendly FCC chairman. Pai repealed the net neutrality rules in 2017, saying they had undermined investment in broadband networks. That meant ISPs could interfere with internet traffic as long as they disclosed it.

But the issue didn't end there. States had come up with their own net neutrality laws, including one in California that was put on hold until the appeals court decision. The FCC argued that states couldn't come up with their own rules that ran counter to the federal policy.