Mozilla v. FCC is a win for innovation, but legislation is still needed

Today’s 2-1 ruling in Mozilla v. Federal Communications Commission from the D.C. Circuit largely reaffirms the FCC’s 2018 net neutrality framework, avoiding an innovation-crushing regulatory regime. However, as Lincoln Network co-founder Garrett Johnson argued, Congress still needs to step in to address the harmful regulatory uncertainty of the protracted fight over net neutrality: 

While some organizations purporting to represent Silicon Valley startups pushed for 1930’s utility-style regulation of the internet, Lincoln Network and a coalition of startups and innovators have consistently advocated for a bipartisan legislative solution guaranteeing an open internet for consumers. Today’s D.C. Circuit Court decision preserves the critical freedoms enacted in 2018, but Congress must still act to provide regulatory certainty over the long term.

This debate hasn’t just been limited to the federal government. Several dozen states have entered the fray with their own net neutrality legislation. A controversial, and misunderstood, part of the D.C. Circuit’s decision was qualifying the FCC’s ability to preempt state net neutrality laws. While state laws aren’t preempted by default, they are still vulnerable to preemption on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, this still creates a murky regulatory landscape in the near term.

When the FCC issued the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, opponents spun a vision of a dystopian internet that was dominated by anti-competitive behavior. Their solution was to call for the internet to be regulated akin to a public utility and limit what kinds of economic activity could exist. Now, nearly two years later, it is clear that the fearful warnings of an internet dark age were overwrought political posturing. It’s now time for Congress to settle the debate once and for all.

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