Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal but FCC ruling stands

Pauline Obrien
November 9, 2018

In a modest victory for net neutrality supporters, the Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal requested by the telecommunications industry and the Trump administration.

The Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to a set of robust net neutrality rules put in place by the FCC in 2015, but this is by no means the end of the legal thicket over rules of the road for the internet.

The administration told the appeals court last month that if it didn't rule by October 31, the government would go directly to the Supreme Court to seek resolution during the current nine-month term.

Three members of the Supreme Court - Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch - indicated that issue the was essentially moot, given more recent actions by the FCC.

The high court in February refused to leapfrog that appeals court's review of Judge William Alsup's decision.

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Behind those two issues are a series of individual questions about the constitutionality of the shutdown and its legality under federal immigration and court procedure laws.

If the Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, agrees to hear the case, a ruling would likely come before the end of June.

That is the lead case that the Administration appealed to the Justices on Monday.

The case has been before the ninth circuit in San Francisco for six months and the court takes an average of 23 months to issue a final ruling.

It also aimed to remove the lower court's verdict from the books so that it couldn't be used as a precedent, something that could prove significant given the ongoing legal actions that challenge the FCC's 2017 repeal of net neutrality.

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The policy has shielded from deportation immigrants dubbed "Dreamers" and given them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.

"The last administration started DACA without a mandate or even an authorization from Congress or the courts; this administration can therefore end DACA at any time", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Monday night. Chief Justice John Roberts and new Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh were both recused from the case. The D.C. Circuit upheld the regulations, prompting industry groups to escalate the case to the Supreme Court.

"Absent prompt intervention from this court, there is little chance the court would resolve this dispute for at least another year", Francisco wrote in a letter to the Supreme Court.

The Trump administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created DACA, which offers protections to roughly 700,000 young adults, mostly Hispanics.

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