Telecom group, net provider sues FCC over net rules

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FCC Sued by Internet Providers in First Net Neutrality Suits.

Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler waits for a hearing at the FCC December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.(Photo: Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images) A telecom trade group and a Texas-based broadband provider have sued the Federal Communications Commission charging that it exceeded its authority in establishing net neutrality rules. The Post writes that two parties — industry group USTelecom and regional service provider Alamo Broadband — have respectively filed suit in Washington and New Orleans.

The United States Telecom Association and Alamo Broadband Inc. asked the courts to void the rules, which forbid Internet service providers led by Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. from blocking or slowing Web traffic. The filings of both USTelecom and Alamo acknowledge that their complaints were filed quickly, and possibly too early, because of uncertainty about procedural deadlines. Many analysts believed that Internet providers would have to wait until the FCC’s rules were officially published in the Federal Register before being eligible to appeal.

In a statement, the FCC called the petitions “premature and subject to dismissal.” It is unclear whether the FCC will be immediately asking for the cases to be thrown out. “Our side does want an early challenge so that this administration will defend it, and [FCC Chairman Tom] Wheeler will defend it,” said one industry lobbyist who represents smaller telecom firms. “The sooner the better.” “These companies have threatened all along to sue over the FCC’s decision, even though that decision is supported by millions of people and absolutely essential for our economy,” said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. “Apparently some of them couldn’t wait to make good on that threat.” In a separate legal challenge filed Friday in Cincinnati, Tennessee sued the FCC over its February decision to block the state’s restriction on city-run Internet service. However, the agency will “forbear” — or refrain — from using some of those provisions including pricing regulation and other parts that are less relevant to broadband services.

The current policy was drafted to get around this issue; it redefines broadband as a Title II “telecommunications service” that can be more firmly governed than its previous designation, an “information service.” Title II can be used for relatively heavy, utility-style rules, but Wheeler has promised to forbear on the stricter sections, as well as any that would mandate new fees. USTelecom’s challenge to the rules is focused on the FCC’s claim of strong authority, which leaves broadband to be overseen as a public utility, Jonathan Banks, the company’s senior vice president, said in an e-mail. For the first time the openness rules apply fully to wireless service, triggering objections from providers, who argue Congress already decided that such service should be lightly regulated.

The FCC’s “order has glaring legal flaws that are guaranteed to mire the agency in litigation for a long time,” Commissioner Ajit Pai, a member of the agency’s Republican minority, told Congress at a March 19 hearing. At the same hearing, Meredith Attwell Baker, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group, said the mobile industry would “have no choice but to look to the courts” after passage of FCC rules covering their service. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at; Jon Morgan at Andrew Dunn, Romaine Bostick

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