AT&T, along with trade associations representing wireless, cable, and broadband industries asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse rules that prevent Internet service providers from restricting or throttling web access, according to Reuters. The current ruling upholds rules created by the Obama administration and Federal Communications Commission in response to consumer concerns.
The group argued to the court that the ruling dramatically changes federal law that wireless companies counted on while developing business plans, strategy, and investment. The internet providers are concerned that the current rules will make it more difficult to invest in additional capacity and to manage internet traffic. Essentially, they do not believe that internet providers should be subject to regulation similar to public utilities and common carriers.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that he was not surprised that “the big dogs have challenged the three-judge panel’s decision.” In June, the panel backed the FCC’s net neutrality proposal to force internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally. While this measure had the potential to cut into provider’s profit margins, the FCC and the three-judge panel decided that consumer protection and net neutrality weighed more heavily than provider profits.
The court ruling treats the internet as a utility rather than a luxury, and requires providers to meet regulations as such. The Obama administration views broadband as an essential need, and argued that it should be considered as such. The FCC argued that access to internet is as important as access to a phone or power, and should be available to all Americans, according to The New York Times.
At the time of the ruling, Wheeler said, “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future.”
AT&T likely does not expect to win this round of legal battles, but instead expects to push the issue to the level of the Supreme Court. AT&T senior vice president and general counsel, David McAtee II in reference to this said “We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court and we look forward to participating in that appeal.”
The net neutrality ruling stays for now, but the legal battle over it is far from over.