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A test case for net neutrality will go before a US federal court this week. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should not block web traffic for customers that pay less to give faster speeds to those that pay more. Verizon accuses regulators of being random and unaccountable in trying to impose rules on how traffic can be delivered.

The outcome of the case could have major implications for US internet law and economics. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and Verizon will present their arguments to a panel of three judges at the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC.

Verizon is challenging a 2010 order adopted by the FCC on “Preserving the Free and Open Internet”. This order stated that internet service providers could not block lawful content, and that mobile broadband providers could not block lawful websites. Verizon has argued that the FCC has acted outside of its remit, and that the order contradicts US communications law. The company also said the order violates its constitutional rights by stripping it of control of the transmission of speech on its networks.

Supporters of net neutrality, including web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, have said that everyone should have the right to a free and open internet. Those opposed to net neutrality, such as internet service providers and mobile broadband operators, have said the growth of web usage and bandwidth-hungry applications have put a costly strain on infrastructure.

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