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Consumer Reports: Court largely upholds FCC net neutrality repeal, but leaves door open for states to act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal appeals court today largely upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of its 2015 net neutrality rules, but it rejected the FCC’s dubious attempt to bar states from issuing their own net neutrality regulations, which leaves the door open for states to move forward with their own consumer protections.

Consumer Reports is a strong supporter of net neutrality rules because they are critical for a fair digital marketplace, where all internet traffic is delivered to consumers the same way, regardless of whether an internet service provider has a financial stake in favoring content from one provider over another. CR filed an amicus brief with the federal court in support of the petitioners’ challenge.

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said, “The court let down the millions of consumers who called on the FCC to keep its net neutrality rules. The silver lining is that the court rejected the FCC’s attempt to stop states from passing their own laws, although we expect the federal government to keep fighting those efforts.

“The primary path forward for net neutrality — for now — moves to the states. The court’s decision means state legislators can advance laws that give consumers what the FCC took away — strong net neutrality rules that put consumers first. California’s net neutrality law, which remains tied up in the courts, will live to see another day. We worked hard to pass the California law, and we will press other states to do the same.”

Meanwhile, CR and other groups will continue to urge the U.S. Senate to pass the House-approved Save the Internet Act, which would overturn the FCC repeal.

“Congress can settle this debate once and for all. Today’s decision underscores the need for the Senate to follow the House in passing the Save the Internet Act. We need these rules of the road to ensure people can choose the sites and apps they want, and ensure the internet is a level playing field for companies large and small to compete online,” Schwantes said.

CR has long advocated for the 2015 net neutrality rules, the Save the Internet Act in Congress, and the California law that has been challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice.

A nationally-representative survey by Consumer Reports in 2017 found the majority of Americans supported net neutrality rules to prevent internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet, while 67 percent disagreed that providers should be able to choose which websites, apps or streaming services customers can access.

Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org