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Tuesday 21 January 2020

US Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal

The court on Monday rejected appeals from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court ruling in favour of the "net neutrality" rules

Washington: The US Supreme Court turned away a group of long-pending appeals from the broadband industry over the Obama-era “net neutrality” rule, which barred Internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to some web traffic.

The appeals, filed more than a year ago, lost most of their practical significance in June when a new Federal Communications Commission order took effect and abolished the net neutrality rule.

The court on Monday rejected appeals from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court ruling in favour of the “net neutrality” rules.

The Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump has rolled back the rules, but the industry also wanted to wipe the court ruling off the books.

The main remaining issue for the Supreme Court was whether to set aside the 2016 federal appeals court decision that upheld the net neutrality rule as being within the FCC’s authority. President Donald Trump’s administration urged the court to take that step, which would have stripped the ruling of any force as a precedent.

A divided high court refused and instead simply rejected the appeals, leaving the 2016 ruling in place. Three conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — said they would have set aside the appeals court decision and ordered the underlying case dismissed.

Chief Justice John Roberts and new Justice Brett Kavanaugh didn’t participate in the Supreme Court’s action. Neither gave a reason, but Kavanaugh played a role in the case on the appeals court, saying he would have overturned the net neutrality rule.

Roberts may have had a financial reason for recusing. According to his most recent financial disclosure report, he owned $250,001 to $500,000 in Time Warner Inc. stock at the end of last year. Since then, Time Warner has been acquired by AT&T Inc., one of the companies that challenged the rule.

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