U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Net Neutrality Appeals Court Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 5 declined to hear a case brought by the telecommunications industry and the Department of Justice seeking to reverse a lower appeals court ruling upholding Obama-era regulations that treated the Internet as a utility.

The Federal Communications Commission under President Trump reversed the regulations in 2017. Through the Obama-era guidelines were no longer in place, the Trump Administration and telecoms were hoping the Supreme Court would remove the precedent set by the 2016 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s ruling that upheld them.

The Supreme Court’s lack of action on the case does not reverse the 2017 repeal of the net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015, and leaves the door open to future litigation for any net neutrality policy.

The FCC reversal had been seen as a win for major ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon having greater control of content distribution on the Internet. Indeed, Dish Network this month alleged AT&T-owned HBO and Cinemax wouldn’t renegotiate pay-TV carriage agreements, in part due to AT&T’s competing over-the-top video distribution platforms.

California state lawmakers this year voted to adopt the guidelines affording content providers such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video equal access to high-speed Internet distribution without being subjected to throttling, blocking or paid prioritization by Internet service providers.

Enforcement of the new legislation – set to take effect in January – has been put on hold pending a separate lawsuit by the federal government that argues states seeking their own net neutrality guidelines are violating the supremacy clause.

Federal Appeals Court Sets Argument Date for AT&T, DOJ Case

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has slated Dec. 6 the date for oral arguments in the Justice Department’s legal challenge of the AT&T/Time Warner merger.

The DOJ in July filed an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling that the $85 billion merger was not anticompetitive or detrimental to consumers without spinning off select assets, including Turner and CNN, which the government had sought.

“If AT&T is permitted to control Time Warner’s most valuable media assets, the merged firm will have both the incentive and the ability to raise its rivals’ costs and stifle growth of innovation, next-generation entrants that offer attractive alternatives to AT&T/DirecTV’s legacy pay-TV model – all to the detriment of American consumers,” said the Justice Department.

AT&T, which consummated the merger – including rollout of WarnerMedia – two days after Leon’s ruling, said the judge was thorough in his decision.

“[Leon] could hardly have been more thorough, fact-cased, and well-reasoned,” AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement.