Lawsuit wave challenges FCC on net neutrality

A number of telecommunications providers are taking on the FCC and the agency's net neutrality rules.

US companies are filing lawsuits against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s recent net neutrality ruling.

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The order, which has not taken effect yet, is already being challenged by firms across the United States. As reported by Reuters, the first wave of lawsuits was filed on Monday by companies under the USTelecom umbrella, which argued that the new net neutrality rules are "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion."

The filing argues that the US regulator's rules break federal and local laws, and violate the constitution and the 1934 Communications Act.

Net neutrality, proposed by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, forces Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to grant customers equal broadband and traffic speeds with no regard to the type of traffic which flows through a network by reclassifying Internet access as a utility in the United States. Under these terms, for example, Comcast is banned from charging Netflix more than Amazon for Internet access or "fast lanes."

Overall, net neutrality enforces three rules: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid priority traffic.

See also: Net neutrality becomes the law of the land

The FCC approved the new rules earlier this year, revealing them online on March 12 (.PDF).

USTelecom, which counts as members companies including AT&T and Verizon, said the organization supports open Internet rules, but says it also encourages a regulatory approach which does not involve reclassifying Internet access as a utility. USTelecom President Walter McCormick believes this approach is not "legally sustainable."

In a statement, USTelecom Senior Vice President Jon Banks commented:

"The focus of our legal appeal will be on the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband Internet access service as a public utility service after a decade of amazing innovation and investment under the FCC's previous light-touch approach. As our industry has said many times, we do not block or throttle traffic and FCC rules prohibiting blocking or throttling will not be the focus of our appeal."

Alamo Broadband, based in Texas, has also launched a challenge against the FCC using a similar argument. Industry sources told the publication that two additional trade groups, CTIA-The Wireless Association and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, are expected to also launch their own lawsuits.

In relation to USTelecom's filing, McCormick said:

"The filing ensures that the association's right to appeal the open Internet order would not be blocked. If the court determines that the trigger date is 10 days after publication in the Federal Register, USTelecom will file an appeal at that time."

Read on: In the enterprise

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