Internet On Trial – Net Neutrality Heads to Ninth Circuit Court

The repeal of net neutrality in the US is now heading to court. America’s Internet is hanging in the balance.

If the US is hoping to shed its reputation of always having high stakes drama in the political and legal realm, this court case certainly won’t do it. This time, we are looking at a court case that could be more important than the Tenenbaum and Thomas cases. In fact, it could very well be bigger than the MGM vs. Grokster case.

Without a doubt, the stakes are huge: the future of American Internet itself could hang in the balance here. What triggered this court battle was last years FCC decision to scrap network neutrality. That move saw battle lines drawn in an effort to save the Internet. One of those efforts is what is through the courts. Now that the net neutrality order is in the Federal Register, the gears to fight for the Internet’s survival can really move.

As Broadcast Cable reports, the case to stop the repeal will begin the fight in the ninth circuit:

It looks like the legal challenge to the FCC’s network neutrality rules will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the varios appeals to the FCC’s Restoring Internet Order will be filed.

The Ninth won a random draw for the venue conducted when appeals are filed in more than one federal appeals court, according to an attorney involved in the appeals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has heard the previous appeals of net neutrality rules.

Reuters also has coverage of this development:

A federal judicial panel said on Thursday that challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the Obama era open internet rules will be heard by an appeals court based in San Francisco.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation said it randomly selected the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Nth circuit to hear the consolidated challenges. The FCC declined to comment on the decision.

A dozen challenges have been filed by 22 state attorneys general, public interest groups, internet companies, a California county and the state’s Public Utilities Commission seeking to block the Trump administration’s repeal of landmark rules designed to ensure a free and open internet from taking effect.

The suits were filed in both the Ninth Circuit and District of Columbia appeals court. Of the Ninth Circuit court’s 24 active judges, 18 were appointed by Democratic presidents and six by Republican President George W. Bush. There are six current vacancies and President Donald Trump has nominated two candidates.

On the one side of this battle is big ISPs hoping to end network neutrality. A win here would be a critical step forward to being able to block, throttle, prioritize, or otherwise shape the Internet as they see fit. A lot of money is on the line because a lot of ISPs also own content distribution channels. Being able to prioritize their streaming services at the expense of competition would be huge for them.

On the other side are those fighting to keep the Internet open. Representatives from various state governments as well as large Internet giant’s are firmly hoping to keep the free market of the Internet alive. What they are hoping to see is the retention of fair competition and free speech in the Internet realm within the US. A loss here could dramatically cut down on web competition and put larger players on notice.

At this stage, a victory on either side could decide the momentum on network neutrality. Of course, we should also be aware that although this is battle is big, it is by no means a sprint. Court hearings take time and when an appeal hits, it can easily extend a case into a multi-year long battle. Still, in this marathon standoff, both sides have the resources and the will to take this battle to the very end.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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