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AT&T asks U.S. Supreme Court to overturn net neutrality rules

As the FCC prepares to roll back the controversial rules, AT&T and others appeal a lower court's ruling that upheld the rules to the Supreme Court.


AT&T and others have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2015 net neutrality rules. 

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

AT&T is trying to take the fight over the Obama-era net neutrality rules to the US Supreme Court.

On Thursday, AT&T, the cable industry group NCTA, and CenturyLink filed separate appeals asking the court to overturn the controversial 2015 rules. A federal appeals court last year upheld the rules, which were passed by a Democrat-controlled FCC and supported by President Barack Obama.

The rules prohibit wireless and broadband companies from blocking or slowing traffic and prevents them from charging a fee to deliver services faster to consumers. It also reclassifies broadband as a utility service, subjecting it to many of the same regulations that govern the old telephone network.

The broadband industry says it has no problem with the idea of an open internet, but it argues the new classification applies outdated regulations that have stifled investment.

Republicans, who now control the FCC, have already begun the process of dismantling the rules. In May FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, appointed by President Donald Trump, opened a proceeding to rewrite the rules. The FCC could vote to repeal the rules as early as December.

Legal experts say this makes it less likely the Court will take the case.

"The Supreme Court isn't likely to play a starring role on net neutrality now," said Matt Schettenhelm, a litigation and government analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. "The court's likely to take a back seat, letting the FCC move ahead with its work to undo the 2015 order."

This means the fight for net neutrality is likely to go on for several years as Democrats, consumer advocates and internet companies like Mozilla, which support the rules, have vowed to continue to fight.

"A court challenge is certain if the FCC overturns the existing rules," Matt Wood, policy director for the advocacy group Free Press, said in an interview earlier this year.