A federal court has decided not to block the government's new net neutrality rules from going into effect, handing Internet providers, such as Verizon and Comcast, another defeat in an ongoing legal fight with the Federal Communications Commission.
The decision clears the way for the FCC to enforce its ban on the slowing and blocking of Web traffic, even as it seeks to fend off a legal attack against the regulations. Despite the setback, industry officials and their allies vowed Thursday to forge ahead with an attempt to overturn the rules in court.
"I plan to fight the Order all the way to the Supreme Court," said Daniel Berninger, founder of the Voice Communication Exchange.
AT&T and a number of industry trade groups sued the FCC in April, arguing that the agency overstepped its authority when it decided to treat Internet providers the same way it treats telecom companies.
The industry also asked the court to put a temporary hold on parts of the FCC's rules until the lawsuit works itself out. Analysts predicted that the chances of a stay were slim. But an early victory for Internet providers, they said, might push Congress to draw up legislation on net neutrality that would replace the FCC's regulations — an idea strongly backed by industry.
Efforts to craft a net neutrality bill have largely stalled because of the unresolved litigation. Congress could still restrain the FCC's rules with an amendment to a must-pass budget bill, but such a provision would need to be approved by both chambers and President Obama, a supporter of the FCC's regulations.
"This is a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators!" said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. "Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open."
In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the net neutrality lawsuit should be heard in an expedited fashion, which could lead to oral arguments by as early as December, according to industry lawyers.