Feature Article

April 15, 2015

Let the Lawsuits Begin! AT&T, Industry Associations Sue Over FCC Open Internet Order

Foes of the FCC’s Open Internet Order were busy this week, as several industry groups and AT&T separately sued the commission for its recently passed rules.

In a March 12 blog, AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, commented: “Unfortunately, the order released today begins a period of uncertainty that will damage broadband investment in the United States. Ultimately, though, we are confident the issue will be resolved by bipartisan action by Congress or a future FCC, or by the courts.” Yesterday AT&T attempted to make good on that last point by suing the Federal Communications Commission over its net neutrality rules, which are set to go into effect June 12.

The move by AT&T follows in the footsteps of similar challenges to the FCC from various communications industry trade groups.

On Monday, USTelecom announced it filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia to challenge FCC’s open Internet/net neutrality order “on grounds that it is arbitrary and capricious, and violates federal law.” USTelecom President Walter McCormick called the FCC’s order an “unjustifiable shift backward to common carrier regulation after more than a decade of significantly expanded broadband access and services for consumers under light-touch regulation.”

CTIA, the wireless industry association that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler headed up for years, yesterday filed a lawsuit with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a CTIA blog yesterday explaining the move, CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker, a former FCC commissioner, mentioned FCC overreach and commented that “the FCC usurped the role of Congress and departed from a bipartisan mobile-specific framework to create a new intrusive regulatory framework.”

The American Cable Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association also have filed petitions for review of the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband ISPs under Title II.

ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said this new order places on ACA members, half of which have 1,000 or fewer customers, the burden of negotiating complicated new rules, which will create confusion and waste resources. The NCTA petition was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and former U.S. Assistant to the Solicitor General Miguel A. Strada of Gibson Dunn are representing the NCTA in this effort.

“This appeal is not about net neutrality but the FCC’s unnecessary action to apply outdated utility style regulation to the most innovative network in our history,” said NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell, who served as FCC chairman from 2001 until 2005. “The FCC went far beyond the public’s call for sound net neutrality rules. Instead, it took the opportunity to engineer for itself a central role in regulating and directing the evolution of the Internet.” 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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