San Francisco court punts net neutrality decision back to D.C.

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It was nice while it lasted, but Washington, D.C.’s inexorable gravity has pulled the court fight over network neutrality – or lack thereof – away from San Francisco and back inside the Beltway.

Originally, a judicial lottery determined that the fifteen challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to roll back network neutrality and broadband status as a common carrier service would be heard by the federal ninth circuit appeals court in San Francisco, where Santa Clara County and the California Public Utilities Commission filed their cases. The prospect of the future of net neutrality being decided in the shadow of Silicon Valley was delicious, but not for the D.C.-based groups that made up the bulk of the challengers. So they asked for the consolidated cases to be moved back to D.C…

Transfer is warranted by all of the factors considered by this Court, including the convenience of the parties, the choice of forum made by the majority of the petitioners, and the fact that this Court’s sister Court for the D.C. Circuit has considered virtually identical issues in inter-related proceedings. Specifically, this case is the fourth, “follow-on” phase in the review of the Federal Communications Commission’s “network neutrality” actions; all prior phases have been adjudicated by the D.C. Circuit. That Court has issued four decisions in these prior three proceedings, variously affirming, or disagreeing with, the FCC’s actions. Transfer is warranted in the interest of continuity.

Santa Clara County and the CPUC didn’t support the request, but they didn’t oppose it either and the ninth circuit approved the transfer.

One of the first issues that the D.C. appeals court will likely decide is whether or not to put the FCC’s net neutrality repeal on hold while the cases are being heard. In past net neutrality cases, the D.C. court declined to do so.