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New Internet Rules Take Effect After Court Rejects Stay

New Internet regulations took effect Friday after a federal court refused to grant a stay requested by the telecom industry, which is also suing to have the rules overturned.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Thursday objections to the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order were not serious enough to warrant delaying its implementation until legal challenges are considered later this year, according to Fortune.

In February, the FCC voted to subject Internet providers to Title II of the Communications Act—the same rules covering landline telephones—with the ostensible intention of enforcing “net neutrality,” the concept that internet service providers should not be allowed to either block legal content or prioritize certain types of content by charging fees for faster access speeds.

Critics, however, say the new rules will reduce competition, innovation, and investment in the industry, and warn that they could lead to up to $11 billion in new taxes and fees. (RELATED: Goodlatte Predicts $11 Billion In New Taxes, Fees From Net’s New Rules)

Net neutrality advocates naturally cheered the court’s ruling, while opponents described it as a temporary setback for their cause.

“Today’s decision by the court to deny the stay request of the FCC’s open Internet rule sends a message of full steam ahead for consumers, start-ups, and new network builders,” said Chip Pickering, the CEO of network industry association COMPTEL and a former Republican member of Congress.

“The court’s decision reaffirms the Federal Communications Commission and Chairman Tom Wheeler’s light-touch approach to deliver the strongest possible protections,” Pickering added. “The stay request was simply a delay tactic by Internet gatekeepers that seek to control, block, and assign new fees for Internet access.” (RELATED: This is What a Republican FCC Commissioner Had to Say About Wheeler’s Net Neutrality Plan)

Conversely, Berin Szoka, president of the tech policy think tank TechFreedom, argued that, “Getting a stay is always difficult, so the denial doesn’t say much (if anything at all) about how the case will ultimately be decided. Today simply marks the beginning of a protracted legal fight over the legality of the FCC’s takeover of the Internet.”

Szoka explained that whatever the court ultimately decides with respect to the larger issue of overturning the Order, the process will likely take at least two years, and possibly longer if the rules are rejected and the FCC appeals to the Supreme Court.

“While the courts sort this mess out, the dark cloud of legal uncertainty cast over the Internet will be slowing innovation, curbing investment, and harming consumers,” Szoka claimed.

“Rather than wait on the courts,” he said. “Congress should step up and end this fight the way it should have been ended a decade ago: with narrow legislation that addresses core concerns about transparency, blocking, and discrimination while taking Title II off the table forever.” (RELATED: Republicans Solicit Feedback on Net Neutrality Legislation)

Daniel Berninger, founder of a coalition of “tech elders” that opposes Title II, called the court’s refusal to grant a stay “disappointing, but not unexpected,” and promised the effort to repeal the rules would continue.

“The FCC’s claim in the Order of authority to regulate anything with an IP address holds enormous implications for America’s world-leading information technology sector,” he noted. “It is important to remember that the FCC cannot point to a single successful regulatory program it has implemented—all of its successful programs have been deregulatory.”

Szoka agreed, arguing that, “Much as the FCC tries to frame this debate as a fight over net neutrality, it’s actually about imposing Title II on the Internet. Letting the Order go into effect means the Pandora’s box of broader Internet regulation has been opened.”

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