US net neutrality rules to go ahead

Protesters outside FCC Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters outside FCC headquarters

Rules that prevent net firms from blocking or slowing down online traffic can go ahead, a US federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel said it will not postpone implementation of net neutrality rules, despite opposition from firms such as Verizon and AT&T.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler called it "a victory for internet consumers".

But it is unlikely to be the end of legal action from opponents.

Mr Wheeler, who pushed the rule changes through, welcomed the decision.

"Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the internet fast, fair and open," he said.

"Blocking, throttling, pay-for-priority fast lanes and other efforts to come between consumers and the internet are now things of the past. The rules also give broadband providers the certainty and economic incentive to build fast and competitive broadband networks."

But Berin Szoka, president of lobby group TechFreedom which is opposed to the new rules, said: "The denial doesn't say much (if anything at all) about how the case will ultimately be decided.

"Today simply marks the beginning of a protracted legal fight over the legality of the FCC's takeover of the internet."

Open internet

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler faces a legal battle over net neutrality

The new rules were agreed in February and saw internet services put on a par with other utilities, meaning they would be subject to greater regulation.

While net firms say the regulations are too onerous, consumer groups felt that they were a necessary way to protect a free and open internet.

The main issue was over whether net firms should have the right to make deals with content providers to offer them a better service for a fee.

USTelecom, a US broadband association that opposes the rules, said it was disappointed by the court's decision but added that it would continue to fight.

President of the firm Walter B McCormick said: "We look forward to providing the court a more fulsome, detailed accounting of the legal problems with the commission's order."

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