State can’t regulate VoIP phones—Pai predicts same outcome with net neutrality.

A court ruling that limits state regulation of cable company offerings was praised by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who says the ruling supports his contention that the FCC can preempt state-level net neutrality rules.

The new court ruling found that Minnesota’s state government cannot regulate VoIP phone services offered by Charter and other cable companies because VoIP is an “information service” under federal law. Pai argues that the case is consistent with the FCC’s attempt to preempt state-level net neutrality rules, in which the commission reclassified broadband as a Title I information service instead of a Title II telecommunications service.

The ruling was issued Friday by the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, following a lawsuit filed by Charter Communications against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). A three-judge panel ruled against Minnesota in a 2-1 vote—the FCC had filed a brief supporting Charter’s position in the case.

“[F]ederal law for decades has recognized that states may not regulate information services,” Pai said in response to the ruling. “The 8th Circuit’s decision is important for reaffirming that well-established principle: ‘[A]ny state regulation of an information service conflicts with the federal policy of non-regulation’ and is therefore preempted.”

Pai said the ruling “is wholly consistent with the approach the FCC has taken under Democratic and Republican Administrations over the last two decades, including in last year’s Restoring Internet Freedom order,” which repealed net neutrality rules and reclassified broadband. While California and other states are imposing net neutrality rules, the FCC says the reclassification should preempt any such attempts at regulating broadband at the state level.

Despite Pai’s contention, a lawyer involved in the net neutrality case against the FCC told Ars that the 8th Circuit ruling “has no bearing” on the net neutrality case.

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