Telecom Groups Sue Over Net Neutrality Rules

With the FCC's Open Internet Order now published in the Federal Register, several trade groups have filed lawsuits challenging numerous parts of the controversial regulations.

It was clear that lawsuits were coming, and this week, they arrived.

On Monday, the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) sued the Federal Communications Commission to overturn tough new open-internet rules that advocates cheered but that internet providers call overkill. On Tuesday, CTIA: The Wireless Association followed with a lawsuit of its own, as did the American Cable Association (ACA) and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

Under the Open Internet Order, which was published in the Federal Register on Monday, the FCC will ramp up its oversight of internet providers, regulating them as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The four suits challenging the new regulatory regime have similar but not identical goals.

USTelecom wants a lighter regulatory touch. The group supports the spirit of President Obama’s November comment on net neutrality but says the Open Internet Order goes too far.  “Reclassifying broadband internet access as a public utility reverses decades of established legal precedent at the FCC and upheld by the Supreme Court,” said USTelecom President and CEO Walter McCormick in a statement. “History has shown that common carrier regulation slows innovation, chills investment, and leads to increased costs on consumers.”

CTIA is concerned about mobile infrastructure. The group says that it’s always supported net neutrality but that the rules are different for mobile apps, which work with more limited bandwidth and newer technology. “Instead of letting consumers decide the success of new, innovative mobile services, government bureaucrats will now play that role,” CTIA Chairman Ron Smith said in a statement.

ACA says the rules are too burdensome for its members. The group’s president and CEO, Matthew M. Polka, said the old regulatory regime “created the proper balance” for providers of all sizes but that the new rules don’t make sense for ACA’s member companies. “The Open Internet Order needlessly saddles ACA’s members—half of which have 1,000 customers or fewer—with the extraordinary burden of complying with a complicated new regulatory regime,” Polka said in a news release. “Most ACA members have never before been subject to Title II regulation for any of their services and have little, if any, capability to understand, let alone address, this complexity.”

NCTA says the FCC reworked the law illegally. With former solicitor general Ted Olson in its corner, NCTA may be mounting the toughest challenge to the order. “The FCC, in effect, has impermissibly rewritten the Communications Act,” Olson said in a news release. “Congress clearly intended for the internet to evolve unencumbered by complex, inefficient government regulations. Instead of letting regulators play the central role in determining how the internet evolves, they wanted these decisions to be left to the creativity of entrepreneurs, engineers, and consumers.”

The cases will likely be consolidated and heard together by a federal court to be selected by lottery, Reuters noted.  And there may be more suits to come: Complainants have up to 10 days to file challenges after rules are published in the Federal Register.

The FCC said in a statement to Reuters that it is “confident” the rules will be upheld.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

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