Earlier today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its long awaited opinion in United Telecom Association, et. al. v. Federal Communications Commission(FCC). By a 2-1 vote, the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC’s recent net neutrality rules which reclassify Internet providers from Title I “information service” to Title II “telecommunication services” – thus subjecting such providers to much more onerous government regulation. The FCC’s decision has effectively turned broadband into a public utility.
Part of the FCC’s statutory justification for its reclassification of broadband hinges on the Communications Act of 1934 as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was written to, in the words of Congress, “promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.” Noting this inconsistency, Judge Williams wrote in his dissent, “[A] central [paradox] of the [FCC’s] position [is] its use of an Act intended to ‘reduce regulation’ to instead increase regulation …”
The D.C. Circuit’s decision will undoubtedly increase costs, reduce infrastructure investments, and unless overturned, curb some of the dynamic aspects of the ultracompetitive broadband marketplace. National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has long been expressing concern not only over the implications of net neutrality but also Title II regulation.
The plaintiffs in the case have vowed to appeal the decision and it is highly likely the case will end up before the United States Supreme Court. As always, NTU will continue to monitor the case and explain its impact on taxpayers and consumers.