Report: Telecom Groups Plan Net Neutrality Lawsuits

A trio of wireless and telecom industry trade groups reportedly are working on lawsuits to fight the FCC’s decision to regulate internet service providers as utilities. That’s a shift from the last legal battle over internet rules, which was spearheaded by Verizon.

The first time the Federal Communications Commission tried to create open-internet regulations, it faced a lawsuit from Verizon—which it lost. That sent the FCC back to the drawing board, and ultimately the agency issued even stricter internet rules.

Now, those stricter rules, announced last month, have led to talk of new lawsuits. But instead of Verizon or another company taking the lead in litigation, it’s likely to be an array of trade groups.

Reuters reported this week that several trade associations, including USTelecom, CTIA-The Wireless Association, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, are expected to file suit, although all three declined to comment. The groups were among the most high-profile critics of the new regulations.

“We believe there will be a lot of litigation, which will probably be led by industry associations,” Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told the news service on Wednesday.

Another group that had pledged a lawsuit, the American Cable Association, may join the effort, as may the National Association of Manufacturers, their representatives told Reuters.

NAM says net neutrality regulations could hurt infrastructure investment.

“Whenever there’s a pause in investment by any kind of company due to regulatory uncertainty, it’s going to have a trickle-down effect on the whole manufacturing community,” NAM Technology Policy President Brian Raymond told Reuters in December.

Was the Process Fair?

The regulations—which restrict internet service providers’ ability to put some content in a delivery “fast lane” while other content is assigned lower priority—are controversial for a variety of reasons, including the process that produced them.

Critics say the rule-making process changed significantly after a public outcry drew the interest of advocacy groups—and, eventually, President Barack Obama. The FCC’s refusal to release the draft of the proposed rules before the commissioners’ final vote also drew criticism.

Questions about the process have led the FCC’s Office of the Inspector General to open an investigation into whether the president had undue influence on the commission’s final decision—a charge FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler denies.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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