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On October 27, the FCC voted 3-2 to adopt an Order on Remand in response to a 2019 decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (covered by InfoBytes here). The D.C. Circuit’s decision mostly ratified the Commission’s 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order that reversed the net neutrality rules barring internet service providers from slowing down or speeding up web traffic based on business relationships, however it remanded three “discrete issues” for the FCC’s further consideration, including how the reversal of the net neutrality rules could affect public safety issues. A Fact Sheet accompanying the Order on Remand stated that the FCC found “no basis to alter” its conclusions in the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, noting that, among other things, “[n]either the Commission’s decision to return broadband Internet access service to its longstanding classification as an information service, nor its decision to eliminate the Internet conduct rules, is likely to adversely impact public safety.”
On October 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision, which mostly ratifies the FCC’s 2017 reversal of the net neutrality rules barring internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down or speeding up web traffic based on business relationships. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Notably, however, the decision vacates a portion of the FCC’s 2018 Restoring Internet Freedom Order (Order), which preempted states from issuing their own net neutrality rules on requirements that the FCC “‘repealed or decided to refrain from imposing’ in the Order or that [are] ‘more stringent’ than the Order.”
The D.C. Circuit held that the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband internet access as a Title I service under the Telecommunications Act—allowing for a “light-touch” regulatory framework for ISPs instead of the more heavily regulated Title II—deserves Chevron deference. The appellate court also noted that while “[p]etitioners dispute that the transparency rule, market forces, or existing antitrust and consumer protection laws can adequately protect internet openness. . . . [we] are ultimately unpersuaded.”
The D.C. Circuit also concluded that the FCC failed to adequately address how the reversal of the net neutrality rules could affect public safety issues, holding that the FCC must address this issue. The appellate court stressed that “[u]nlike most harms to edge providers incurred because of discriminatory practices by broadband providers, the harms from blocking and throttling during a public safety emergency are irreparable.” Additionally, the appellate court instructed the FCC to revisit its analysis on how the reversal will affect the regulation of pole attachments as well as low-income households that receive the internet through an FCC subsidy program. Furthermore, while the appellate court concluded that the FCC overreached its authority in prohibiting states from passing their own net neutrality rules, Judge Williams—who concurred in part and dissented in parted—reasoned that the internet cannot be divided into state markets, and that state actions “would frustrate an agency’s authorized policy.”
On February 22, the FCC formally published its Restoring Internet Freedom Order (Order) to overturn the 2015 Title II Order (known as, “Net Neutrality” rules). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the FCC voted last December to remove the restrictions barring internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down or speeding up web traffic based on business relationships. Among other things, the Order’s “light-touch regulatory framework” will require ISPs to “publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services sufficient to enable consumers to make informed choices regarding the purchase and use of such services and entrepreneurs and other small businesses to develop, market, and maintain internet offerings. Such disclosure shall be made via a publicly available, easily accessible website or through transmittal to the Commission.” The Order takes effect April 23. The FCC will publish a separate document in the Federal Register announcing the effective date of certain delayed amendatory instructions and the Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order.
As discussed previously in InfoBytes, two governors signed executive orders last month designed to protect net neutrality in their states.
On January 24, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order to protect net neutrality in his state, while earlier on January 22, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed his own executive order designed to “safeguard internet freedom.” Both executive orders have been issued in response to the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order released last December to rollback the 2015 Open Internet Order rules (known as “Net Neutrality” rules), which removes the restrictions barring providers from slowing down or speeding up web traffic based on business relationships. Under Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York State’s government must refrain from entering into any internet service contracts with ISPs that do not agree to follow the Net Neutrality rules. Similarly, Governor Bullock ordered the procurement process for telecommunication services to require that contract recipients adhere to the neutrality principles.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general filed a protective petition for review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the FCC’s Order. See here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Net Neutrality rules.
State AGs file protective petition to stop rollback of net neutrality rules; Senate Democrats announce plans to reverse FCC rule
On January 16, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general filed a protective petition for review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the United States to block the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order released last December to rollback the 2015 Open Internet Order rules (known as “Net Neutrality” rules). As previously covered in InfoBytes, the rollback removes the restrictions barring providers from slowing down or speeding up web traffic based on business relationships, and places the enforcement authority of the new regulatory framework with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In the petition, the states allege violations of the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements, and claim that the FCC's actions with respect to Net Neutrality were “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” According to a press release issued by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman:
The FCC’s new rule fails to justify the Commission’s departure from its long-standing policy and practice of defending net neutrality, while misinterpreting and disregarding critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses. . . Moreover, the rule wrongly reclassifies broadband internet as a Title I information service, rather than a Title II telecommunications service, based on an erroneous and unreasonable interpretation of the Telecommunications Act. Finally, the rule improperly and unlawfully includes sweeping preemption of state and local laws.
Separately that same day, Senate Democrats announced plans to formally introduce a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC’s vote and restore the Net Neutrality rules. Once the rule is submitted to both houses of Congress, the resolution will be formally introduced, published in the Federal Register, and voted upon within 60 legislative days.
On December 14, the FCC voted 3-2 to overturn the 2015 Open Internet Order rules (known as, “Net Neutrality” rules) which mandate that internet service providers (ISPs) treat all web content equally. The FCC released a draft order in November, which outlined the new framework for ISPs, including removing the restrictions barring the providers from slowing down or speeding up web traffic based on business relationships. ISPs are now required to publicly disclose information about their practices including any paid or affiliated prioritization of web content. The FCC places the enforcement authority of the new regulatory framework with the FTC. The order is effective upon OMB approval of the new requirements for ISP public disclosures.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “How the new administration sets the tone for 2021” at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP in consumer finance at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable