The march of the lawyers
Yesterday, the first two lawsuits dealing with the new “Net Neutrality” rules were filed in federal court. The United States Telecom Association, a trade org representing the nation’s largest telecom companies, and Alamo Broadband, a small Texas-based broadband company, are both suing over the FCC’s choice to use Title II of the Communications Act to regulate the way comms companies grant access to different types of online content.
“As we have said throughout this debate, our member companies conduct their business in conformance with the open Internet principles, and support their enactment into law,” USTelecom President Walter McCormick said in a statement. “We do not believe the Federal Communications Commission’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable.”
USTelecom said it filed its five-page protective petition for review out of concern that a 10-day period to challenge the rules was triggered when the agency published the new rules on March 12. However, the FCC said the window for legal challenges is 60 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register, which is expected to occur in the coming days.
An FCC spokesperson called the petitions for review “premature and subject to dismissal.”
Techdirt has the two filings embedded here.
This move comes sooner than expected; the new rules were only voted on last month, and won’t go into effect until 60 days after they are eventually published in the Federal Register. An FCC spokesman said that the agency will argue that the filings are premature—which may be true, considering both parties have admitted as much; but they’ve also said that the filings are “protective.”
Can you blame them? All arguments about free markets and corporate autonomy aside (although not disregarded), the FCC as admitted that they are incompetent to handle many of the issues the new rules purport to control.
We have 400 pages of rules written ostensibly to govern and oversee the internet, and yet the FCC still can’t tell us exactly what they plan on doing with their newly-gained authority. The agency has already waffled on how exactly they’ll handle key areas of the new regulatory scheme:
This is the issue that sent the Net Neutrality debate into the mainstream. The FCC says that all traffic should be treated equally, but they admit they don’t have the expertise to start regulating right away:
But the FCC says in the rules that it won’t be jumping in right away, because it lacks experience in evaluating such deals.
“We find that the best approach is to watch, learn, and act as required, but not intervene now, especially not with prescriptive rules,” the commission wrote in the rules.
The FCC, lobbyists, and pro-NN activists, of course, refuse to be derailed:
“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.”
Consumer advocacy groups that had pushed hard for the strong new rules said Title II was “the right law” and insisted that the FCC has a strong case.
“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.”
Similar to how the FCC couldn’t wait to take control of private enterprise and put it into the hands of government bureaucrats, right?DONATE
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