In a victory for advocates of the open internet, a federal court has ruled high-speed internet can be defined as a utility. The decision affirms the Obama administration’s moves to protect net neutrality by preventing corporate service providers from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for internet service.

The FCC approved the rules last year after receiving a record 4 million public comments. In a statement, the group Free Press called Tuesday’s ruling “a huge victory for the millions and millions of internet users who have fought for years for Net Neutrality.” The telecom companies who oppose the rules may appeal to the Supreme Court.

The battle for Net Neutrality has been a long one.  Between 2005 and 2012, five attempts to pass bills in Congress containing net neutrality provisions failed.  Each sought to prohibit Internet service providers from using various variable pricing models based upon the user’s Quality of Service level, described as tiered service in the industry and as price discrimination by some economists.

In April 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported a new draft rule that would have permitted ISPs to offer content providers a faster track to send content, thus reversing its earlier net neutrality position.  In May 2014, the FCC decided to consider two options: permitting fast and slow broadband lanes, thereby compromising net neutrality; and second, reclassifying broadband as a telecommunication service, thereby preserving net neutrality.

In November 2014, President Barack Obama recommended that the FCC reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service.   In January 2015, Republicans presented an HR discussion draft bill that made concessions to net neutrality but prohibited the FCC from enacting any further regulation affecting ISPs.

Social media platforms had a large role on engaging the public in the debate surrounding net neutrality. Popular websites such as Tumblr, Vimeo, and Reddit also participated in the “internet slowdown” on September 10, 2014, which the organization said was the largest sustained (lasting more than a single day) online protest effort in history.

On January 26, 2015 popular blogging site Tumblr placed links to group Fight For The Future, a net neutrality advocacy group. The website displayed a countdown to the FCC vote on Title II on February 26, 2015. This was part of a widespread internet campaign to sway congressional opinion and encourage users to call or submit comments to congressional representatives.  Net neutrality advocacy groups such as Save the Internet coalition and Battle for the Net responded to the 2015 FCC ruling by calling for defense of the new net neutrality rules.

On February 26, 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996. Then in April 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new “Net Neutrality” regulations.  These rules went into effect on June 12, 2015.