FCC: Supreme Court ruling bolsters net neutrality defense

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The FCC's net neutrality rules require Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. Cellphone carriers are prohibited from blocking apps or services. 

Supporters argue the rules protect an open Internet and ensure consumer choice, but critics claim they amount to government control of the Internet.

Verizon's lawsuit, pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, claims that the FCC acted outside of its jurisdiction to regulate Internet providers in adopting the regulations.

In the Arlington decision this week, which was over unrelated cell tower regulations, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that if a law is ambiguous, then “the court must defer to the administering agency’s construction of the statute so long as it is permissible.” 

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, explained that if an agency adopted a "permissible construction” of its jurisdiction then "that is the end of the matter."

In a brief letter to the appeals court, the FCC said that the deference standard "clearly applies" to the net neutrality case.

Andy Schwartzman, an attorney and support of the FCC's rules, said the Supreme Court's decision "gives the FCC a leg up" but that he still expects it to be a "very close case."