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Thu Dec 7, 2017, 01:22 PM

The FCC's net neutrality plan may have even bigger ramifications in light of this obscure court case

The Switch

The FCC’s net neutrality plan may have even bigger ramifications in light of this obscure court case

By Brian Fung December 6 at 2:53 PM

The plan by the Federal Communications Commission to eliminate its net neutrality rules next week is expected to hand a major victory to Internet service providers. But any day now, a federal court is expected to weigh in on a case that could dramatically expand the scope of that deregulation — potentially giving the industry an even bigger win and leaving the government less prepared to handle net neutrality complaints in the future, consumer groups say.

The case involves AT&T and one of the nation's top consumer protection agencies, the Federal Trade Commission. At stake is the FTC's ability to prosecute companies that act in unfair or deceptive ways.

The litigation is significant as the FCC prepares to transfer more responsibility to the FTC for handling net neutrality complaints. (Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers should not be able to speed up some websites while slowing down others, particularly in exchange for money — a tactic industry critics say could hurt innovation and prevent the growth of start-ups.) If AT&T gets its way in the case, the FTC's ability to pursue misbehaving companies — over net neutrality issues or otherwise — may be sharply curtailed.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications, Internet access and the shifting media economy. Before joining The Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. Follow @b_fung

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