Three new lawsuits challenge FCC's net neutrality rules

The agency is now facing five legal challenges from four trade groups and one ISP

The rush is on to sue the U.S. Federal Communications Commission over its net neutrality rules, with three trade groups filing legal challenges Tuesday.

The agency now faces five lawsuits related to the regulations.

Mobile trade group CTIA, cable trade group the National Cable and Telecommunications Association [NCTA] and the American Cable Association, which represents small cable operators, all filed lawsuits Tuesday.

The three new lawsuits all challenge the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband as a regulated, common-carrier service, reversing a long-standing agency position that it is a lightly regulated information service. The CTIA lawsuit also focuses on the reclassification of mobile broadband.

The new rules will "chill investment," and the FCC's decision ignores a competitive mobile industry, CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement. "Instead of promoting greater industry investment in the connected world of tomorrow, the FCC opted to resuscitate a command-and-control regulatory regime, including a process where innovators must first seek permission from the FCC before rolling out new services," she added.

By reclassifying broadband, the FCC has rewritten the Communications Act without permission from Congress, added Theodore Olson, a veteran lawyer representing the NCTA, said in a statement.

"Congress clearly intended for the Internet to evolve unencumbered by complex, inefficient government regulations," Olson added.  "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 FCC is confident the rules will be upheld by the courts, agency spokeswoman Kim Hart said by email. A favorable court decision will ensure "enforceable protections for consumers and innovators online," she added.

The new net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC on Feb. 26, would prohibit broadband and mobile carriers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic. The rules also reclassify broadband as a regulated telecom service, instead of treating it as a lightly regulated information service, as the FCC has done for the past decade.

In late March, the United States Telecom Association, another trade group, and ISP Alamo Broadband filed lawsuits challenging the net neutrality rules. USTelecom refiled its lawsuit Monday after the FCC's rules were published in the Federal Register, the official publication for U.S. agency rules.

Typically, plaintiffs have to wait until FCC orders are published in the Federal Register to file lawsuits, but USTelecom had some procedural questions because of the sprawling nature of the FCC rules.

The lawsuits against the FCC's rules will likely be consolidated into one case in one court. Most of the challenges were filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, although the Alamo lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in Louisiana.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags governmentmobileregulationinternetlegaltelecommunicationctiaInternet service providersU.S. Federal Communications CommissionCivil lawsuitsNational Cable and Telecommunications AssociationMeredith Attwell BakerAmerican Cable AssociationTheodore OlsonKim Hart

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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