Mozilla, Etsy, seeking to reinstate net neutrality, appeal DC Circuit court ruling

Mozilla, Etsy and several other petitioners -- including 22 state governments -- are keeping alive the fight to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer on

Seeking to ultimately reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules, Mozilla, Etsy, 22 state governments and several other petitioners have filed an appeal to an October court ruling that effectively greenlit the FCC's reversal of net neutrality regulations.

The October decision from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit was a major blow to proponents of net neutrality -- the concept that internet service providers shouldn't be able to block or throttle legal online content or applications, or implement paid prioritization. 

Still, in a statement Friday, Mozilla Chief Legal Officer Amy Keating said that "the fight is far from over."

Specifically, Mozilla and its fellow petitioners are asking for the three-judge panel which handed down the October ruling, or the entire DC Circuit, to reconsider the case. The case should be reconsidered, the petitioners argue, because it addresses an issue of "exceptional importance... with ramifications for consumers and Internet companies nationwide." 

In addition to Mozilla, Etsy and 22 states, the petitioners include Vimeo, the not-for-profit corporation INCOMPAS, various nonprofit and advocacy organizations such as Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology, the California Public Utilities Commission. 

The case stems back to December 2017, when President Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, successfully led a vote to repeal the FCC's 2015 rules that prohibited ISPs from selectively slowing down internet traffic to different sites. The new rules went into effect in 2018. Mozilla and its fellow petitioners sued the FCC, attempting to get nationwide net neutrality rules reinstated. 

In the meantime, more than half of US states considered legislating their own net neutrality rules, with some like Washington, California and Maine following through on the idea. 

Then in October of this year, the three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously upheld most of the FCC's 2018 rules. The appeals court cited two Supreme Court rulings to make its case, concluding that the FCC's rulemaking was reasonable. 

In 2015, the FCC classified ISPs as telecommunications services under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, which gave the FCC the power to regulate practices related to issues like pricing and privacy. 

In 2018, the FCC reclassified ISPs as "information services" under Title I. 

"In doing so, the FCC abdicated its ability to regulate the behavior of ISPs for the first time in its history," Mozilla wrote in the petition filed Friday. "As a consequence, ISPs are permitted to block or throttle Internet access, demand pay-to-play ransom from Internet edge providers, or otherwise interfere with end users' access to the Internet—all activities that had been prohibited by the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules upheld by this Court."

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