Net neutrality rules that would have prevented internet service providers from prioritising certain internet traffic have been rejected by a US federal appeals court.
The Open Internet rules put in place by the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had been established in 2010 to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-blocking policies.
Verizon, a US-based ISP, had challenged the rules in an attempt to allow users that pay more to get faster access to heavy-traffic sites like Netflix and YouTube.
The court's ruling will mean smaller organisations and start-ups will be at a disadvantage compared to their larger, more established rivals.
Verizon defended the ruling, arguing that it would allow "more room for innovation".
"Consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the internet," the company said in a statement following the ruling.
"Verizon has been and remains committed to the open internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want. This will not change in light of the court's decision."
Advocates for net neutrality have responded by saying that such a ruling equated to closing the open internet and a major threat to free speech, innovation and "the internet as we know it."
"For the ISPs, it's a momentous decision," Eric Klinker, the CEO of file-sharing site BitTorrent, said in a blogpost. "This ruling will consolidate their powerful role as arbiters of culture and speech.
"Only those with pockets deep enough to fund government affairs, lobbyists, or submit the payola demanded by corporate gatekeepers will thrive," he warned.