The FCC wins a buffer in upcoming net neutrality fight with states | Media Investment | Business
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Despite the moves by some American states to impost net neutrality regulations on their own, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has affirmed the FCC’s assertion that state efforts to regulate information services are pre-empted by federal law.

pai 9 sept 2018The ruling, in the case of Charter Advanced Services LLC v Lange, found that voice over IP (VoIP) cannot be regulated by the state of Minnesota, because it’s an information service and therefore the state’s claim is trumped by the FCC’s existing policies. The decision sets precedence across the digital content spectrum, including broadband and video services.

The Restoring Internet Freedom order last year from the FCC gutted Obama-era efforts to regulate internet services by classifying them as telecommunications. The Ajit Pai-led court, instated under the Trump Administration, wasted no time reversing that policy. Net neutrality regulations  that were set to go into effect, prohibiting the throttling of traffic or the establishment of paid “fast lanes” for preferred content, were cast to the wayside as well.

“A patchwork quilt of 50 state laws harms investment and innovation in advanced communications services," Pai said of the decision. "That’s why federal law for decades has recognized that states may not regulate information services. The Eighth Circuit’s decision is important for reaffirming that well-established principle: ‘[A]ny state regulation of an information service conflicts with the federal policy of nonregulation’ and is therefore pre-empted. That is wholly consistent with the approach the FCC has taken under Democratic and Republican Administrations over the last two decades, including in last year’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order.”

The news comes as California approves a state-level network neutrality bill by an overwhelming majority, which would instate Obama-era internet regulations across the Golden State. It would mandate no blocking, throttling or paid prioritisation by ISPs for broadband services for California consumers.

“The Eighth Circuit’s decision today holding that Charter’s VoIP service is an 'information service’ not subject to state public utility-like regulation is very significant," said Free State Foundation president Randolph May. "Not only did the decision help clarify the regulatory status of VoIP services, but, more importantly it bolstered the FCC’s contention that state regulation of services determined to be information services under federal law are pre-empted. While in my view the law on this point was clear before today’s decision, the Eighth Circuit’s decision solidifies the case for pre-emption of state laws, for example those in Washington or California, that purport to impose net neutrality mandates inconsistent with the FCC’s non-regulation of information services.”