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Verizon Communications v. Federal Communications Commission (2014)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Verizon Communications v. Federal Communications Commission was a 2014 case in which the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate broadband providers as common carriers.

The 2014 ruling is considered a victory for internet service providers (ISPs) and a defeat for supporters of net neutrality, the principle that internet traffic should be transferred impartially, without regard to content, destination or source. Net neutrality supports the concept that internet service is a utility -- like gas, water, electricity and landline phone service -- and that, as such, it should be available to everyone and subject to government regulation.

The classification of common carrier defines infrastructure, similarly, as a public right of way. This means that all citizens should have equal service from any business that operates on it. Telecommunications services, such as telephone, are classified as common carriers under provisions of the Communications Act of 1934. The Verizon v. FFC decision vacated (struck down) two rules in the Commission's Open Internet Order of 2010 that were based on regulation of broadband as a common carrier:

No unreasonable discrimination: Providers may not unreasonably discriminate against users for lawful traffic.

No blocking: The principles of fair selection and use should be allowed so long as these choices do not break the law or negatively affect the performance of the network.

However, the court upheld the rule for transparency, mandating that service providers must clearly disclose network management practices, speeds and terms of use to consumers.

This was last updated in April 2017

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