Appeals Court Upholds FCC's Network Neutrality Rules

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet/Network Neutrality rules which are essential for preventing blocking or degrading Internet traffic. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne Furniss and Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

Today, as in February 2015, the Benton Foundation celebrates the greatest commitment ever made to preserve and protect an open and free Internet. The winners in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision are traditional American values: access and equity, democracy and diversity, opportunity and innovation.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means access. An Open Internet means consumers can make their own choices about which applications and services to use and are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others. This openness promotes competition. This openness also enables a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle of investment and innovation in which new uses of the network lead to increased adoption of broadband, which drives investment and improvements in the network itself. This, in turn, leads to further innovative uses of the network and further investment in content, applications, services, and devices.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means diversity. By aiding broadband adoption, an Open Internet will benefit diversity as new users seek and make available content that is relevant to their lives. This will increase: 1) the availability of media content reflecting a greater variety of perspectives and 2) the number of independently owned content outlets. Unimpeded access to Internet distribution allows, for example, new video content creators to create and disseminate programs without first securing distribution from broadcasters and pay TV companies.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means equity. At its core, net neutrality is about fairness in the way all users and creators are treated. By treating Internet traffic equally, Open Internet rules recognize that, on the Internet, we are all receivers, producers and sharers of information. Each of us has the potential and – under net neutrality rules – the ability to create the next eye-witness report, the next viral video, the next online movement.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality will enhance our democracy. The Internet offers a forum for diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity. Local, state, and federal government agencies, for example, use the Internet to communicate with the public, provide information, and deliver essential services. Due to the lack of gatekeeper control, the Internet has become a major source of news and information, which forms the basis for informed civic discourse. Many Americans now turn to the Internet to obtain news, and its openness makes it an unrivaled forum for free expression.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality rules are crucial for our most-vulnerable communities. People of color, low-income consumers, seniors, people with disabilities, and rural communities are traditionally-marginalized voices that rely on the Internet as a critical — and unique — tool for communication and empowerment. The Open Internet provides a means for these communities to dispel misperceptions and stereotypes that restrict their political, social, and economic participation. It enables them to connect with others, express their viewpoints, and obtain basic information and resources. Equal access to Internet content thus means equal access to opportunities that are vitally important to vulnerable populations in light of the disadvantages and discrimination they face.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means innovation. With the rules upheld by the court today, everyone – regardless of where they live or how much they earn – will continue to benefit from the exponential innovation that has continued to drive new solutions to almost everything and everyone the Internet touches. An Open Internet means that new services and applications, new processes and ideas, and the freedom to create will continue on the Internet unimpeded.

The Benton Foundation commends the D.C. Circuit Court for it’s wise decision. Under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC acted to ensure the continued value and viability of the Internet. Today, the courts endorsed the FCC’s courageous action.