SCOTUS Ruling Could Harm Survival of Net Neutrality Rules

WASHINGTON—Another landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling released last Friday could significantly harm the Federal Communication Commission's efforts to reinstate net neutrality.

The high court's rulings in Loper Brighter Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce drew back regulatory powers for federal agencies. With this ruling, the court overturned a legal doctrine called Chevron deference that was prescribed in the 1984 landmark high court case of Chevron USA Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council.  

In Chevron, the Supreme Court determined that courts must defer to administrative federal agencies for interpretations of authority granted to them by acts of Congress. This includes whether the intent in the act of Congress was ambiguous and whether the interpretation is considered to be reasonable and permissible in court and statute.

Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, in an overview of this deference doctrine, explains that when "a legislative delegation to an administrative agency on a particular issue or question was not explicit but rather implicit, a court may not substitute its own interpretation of the statute for a reasonable interpretation made by the administrative agency."

Chevron was one of the most influential developments in administrative law in the past four decades, so the ruling that overturns the doctrine upends longstanding case law. How does this apply to adult entertainment industry stakeholders? It all has to do with net neutrality and the importance of regulating broadband as a Title II telecom utility. 

AVN has reported extensively on the FCC under the Biden White House reinstating net neutrality that eliminates "throttling" on websites that have controversial speech and are subject to the whims of large internet service providers and telecommunications companies, including Verizon, Comcast, AT&T Fiber and others. FCC reinstated net neutrality as the regulator.

Under the new ruling, courts serve as the "expert" venue to determine whether a regulation is constitutional.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, an independent panel in the U.S. court system that manages similar lawsuits filed in several district courts, declared that the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, will be the venue for consolidating several cases brought by broadband industry groups. Eight cases were consolidated to the Sixth Circuit.

Now, the private sector and large business interests have greater standing in challenging whether the FCC overstepped its authority by reinstating net neutrality rules.

The Republican party and free market types have used net neutrality as a political flashpoint against digital rights activists, consumer equity organizations and Democrats.