First arguments were held on Friday in a federal appeals court between proponents of the 2015 Open Internet Order and the FCC and carriers who have supported the Restoring Internet Freedom Act. One of the major questions dominating the question of whether net neutrality is still law of the land include whether broadband internet is a telecommunications service or an information delivery service.
The classification issue is a core part of how ISPs were regulated. The 2015 order classified internet service as a utility subject to very specific regulation while the 2018 act reclassified internet service so that it would not be subject to such rules. The current Republican-leaning administration, led by chairman Ajit Pai, implemented RIFA saying that the Obama-era rules precluded telecoms from investing in their networks.
The FCC argued that service providers offer Domain Name System and caching services which contribute to the information service classification because a telecom acts not just as a means for users to connect, but as a proprietary retriever of information. One of the judges grilled the commission’s counsel on how telephony isn’t an information service in their eyes as it is also a medium where telecoms provide services to retrieve data such as telecommunications devices for the deaf.
Other topics included RIFA’s pre-emption of state laws regarding net neutrality and a disregard for public safety concerns — the latter factor was driven by Verizon’s decision to throttle service for the Santa Clara County Fire Department as massive wildfires raged on in California last year. Net neutrality proponents, led by Mozilla and Silicon Valley companies, also brought up a crucial 2005 Supreme Court over consumers’ perception of ISPs as to what service they provide and a lack of accountability at the FCC for addressing telecom misconduct.