A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a request to review its decision upholding the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality regulations.
The victory for net neutrality supporters comes just days after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he is starting proceedings to repeal the rules, and could set the stage for a Supreme Court showdown.
In its denial for what's called an en banc review, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals cited FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plans to repeal the net neutrality rules.
"En banc review would be particularly unwarranted at this point in light of the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the FCC’s Order," the decision reads. "The agency will soon consider adopting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would replace the existing rule with a markedly different one."
"In that light, the en banc court could find itself examining, and pronouncing on, the validity of a rule that the agency had already slated for replacement."
Last year, a partial panel of the appeals ruled against a lawsuit filed by the broadband trade group USTelecom, which argued that the FCC had overstepped its authority in creating the net neutrality rules.
USTelecom then requested a review by the full court, which is headed by Merrick Garland, whom President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEx-Saudi official says he was targeted by a hit team after fleeing to Canada Republican spin on Biden is off the mark Yellen expects inflation to return to normal levels next year MORE unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court last year.
The net neutrality rules treat internet service like a public utility and require service providers to handle all internet traffic equally.
Conservatives and industry advocates oppose the rules because they reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service rather than an information service — a shift that moved the industry under the FCC’s jurisdiction and opened it up to tougher regulations.
Last week, Pai unveiled a proposal to get rid of the reclassification, and on May 18, the commission will be voting on starting the proceedings by soliciting comments from the public.
Pai said in a statement on Monday that he did not see the decision as a setback to his mission to undo the rules and that the outcome is “not surprising.”
“Their opinion is important going forward, however, because it makes clear that the FCC has the authority to classify broadband Internet access service as an information service, as I have proposed to do,” he said.
The next step for net neutrality opponents may be to appeal their case to the Supreme Court. If they’re successful, the battle over internet regulation will be playing out simultaneously in the courtroom, at the FCC and in Congress.
Some congressional Republicans are hoping they can persuade Democrats to come to the table to find a legislative fix that would put an end to the uncertainty surrounding the issue.
--This report was updated at 1:34 p.m.