WASHINGTON: A US court has ruled that high-speed internet service can be defined as a utility, in a decision clearing the way for more rigorous policing of broadband providers and greater protections for web users.
According to New York Times, a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday came in a case about rules applying to a doctrine known as net neutrality, which prohibit broadband companies from blocking or slowing the delivery of internet content to consumers.
Those rules, created by the Federal Communications Commission in early 2015, started a huge legal battle as cable, telecom and wireless internet providers sued to overturn regulations that they said went far beyond the F.C.C.’s authority and would hurt their businesses.
The court’s decision upheld the F.C.C. on the historic declaration of broadband as a utility, the most significant aspect of the rules.
“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,” said Tom Wheeler, chairman of the F.C.C., in a statement.
“This is an enormous win for consumers,” said Gene Kimmelman, president of the public interest group Public Knowledge. “It ensures the right to an open internet with no gatekeepers.”
The legal battle from the broadband industry is far from over. The cable and telecom industries have signaled their intent to challenge any unfavorable decision, possibly taking the case to the Supreme Court.
AT&T immediately said it would continue to fight.
“We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal,” said David McAtee II, the senior executive vice president and general counsel for AT&T.