(New York, NY) – An appeals court’s refusal to reinstate net neutrality today represents a disappointing blow to the fight to protect the free and open internet, PEN America said in a statement. But the decision did hold open an opportunity for states to take action.

“Net neutrality is a fundamental part of maintaining an open internet that is equally accessible to everyone, regardless of their political perspective or financial means,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. Free Expression Programs. “The court’s ruling today gave great deference to the FCC, which was a missed opportunity to elevate the importance of an open and equal internet. At the same time, we’re pleased that the court ruled that the states are not barred from taking steps to protect net neutrality through their own regulatory actions. The fight is not over, and we are eager to engage with like-minded civil society proponents of equal access political leaders at the state level to preserve equitable internet access, as we know it undergirds access to news and the flow of creativity and expression online.”

In Mozilla Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to uphold the FCC’s decision from 2017 that repealed the regulations that provide open access on the internet. That decision also paved the way for variable loading and download speeds based on one’s ability to pay. The 2017 repeal originally sparked deep concern among advocates that start-ups, local news sites, and even targeted political content might suffer and would be put at risk of being slowed or blocked altogether. Today’s ruling rejected the FCC’s argument that states should not be allowed to regulate open internet. This leaves open the opportunity for regulation at the state level to uphold neutrality protections.

PEN America today said it will continue to work with coalition members at the state level to protect digital democracy and free expression for all on the internet. Learn more about PEN America’s local work with PEN Across America and the organization’s advocacy for open and equal internet through PEN America’s support for the Save the Internet Act.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892