Court rules the FCC can’t block state net neutrality laws

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The FCC has won a key bid to uphold its repeal of net neutrality, but at a significant cost. A federal appeals court handling a Mozilla complaint has ruled that most of the repeal can stand, but that the FCC had “not shown legal authority” to ban states from implementing their own laws. The regulator was trying to “categorically abolish” states’ established power to regulate communications within their borders, according to the court.

The decision also asked the FCC to tackle reported shortcomings in its order. The agency didn’t examine the implications of the repeal for public safety, the court said. The FCC also didn’t “sufficiently explain” how reclassifying internet access would affect pole attachments, or do enough to allay concerns about effects on subsidized Lifeline access.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai characterized the decision as a “victory” in a statement and vowed to address the “narrow issues” the appeals court found.

However, the ruling may ultimately steal much of the FCC’s thunder. California, Montana, Washington and other states have either passed or expect to pass laws effectively maintaining net neutrality. This ruling if maintained would not only protect those laws, but give other states the power to implement their own protections. Internet providers determined to play fast and loose with net neutrality would either have to limit those practices to specific states or respect neutrality across the board.

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