Briefing

Net neutrality: five questions after court struck down the rules

The principle of “net neutrality” was struck down by a federal appeals court on Jan. 14. Here’s an explanation of the issues involved.

By , Staff writer

2. Why did a court strike down these rules?

The ruling was based on a technicality – on the FCC’s legal definition of broadband services. In 1996, Congress gave the FCC broad power to regulate “telecommunications” services, like common telephone or cable service. Broadband was not widely available then, but as it evolved, it was understood as another telecommunications service.

But in 2002, the Bush administration changed broadband’s definition to an “information” service – which normally refers to the services offered by companies like Google, Facebook, and Netflix. Since the FCC has far less power to regulate information, the purpose of this redefinition was to unshackle broadband services from federal regulations governing telecommunications.

Thus the federal appeals court said that the FCC’s Open Internet order exceeded its statutory power.

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