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Absolutist versus pragmatic net neutrality debated in US court

Can the telcos work out deals with OTTs about the traffic they carry? Or do they have to be absolutely neutral? These are the questions. The outcome will reverberate across the world.

The case, which is expected to be decided late this year or early next year, has attracted enormous interest. On Monday, telecommunications lawyers began lining up to get into the courtroom two and a half hours before the session was scheduled to start. The session was standing room only, with many others left to listen in an adjacent overflow room.

The judges were not entirely hostile to the F.C.C.’s arguments. Judge Tatel, who many telecommunications analysts expect to be the swing vote on the case, pushed lawyers on both sides to concede that the part of the F.C.C. rule that prohibits outright blocking of online content or applications could be allowed.

Judge Tatel also queried each side on whether the two main provisions of the Open Internet Order — no blocking and no discrimination — had to be taken as a whole or could be separated, with the no-blocking rule being upheld.

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