USTelecom, NCTA Expected to Challenge FCCs Internet Rules

Three trade associations representing landline and wireless broadband Internet service providers are expected to challenge Net neutrality rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission, setting off another round of litigation in Washington, D.C., more than a year after a federal court overturned 2010 Internet regulations.

Two of the three trade groups that are expected to file suit are led by former FCC officials.

CTIA-The Wireless Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom are expected to take the lead challenging the FCC’s rules, Reuters reported, citing several sources familiar with the plan. The three trade organizations declined to comment to the news agency.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has anticipated legal challenges to regulations that were favored by the Obama administration. Before the FCC voted on Feb. 26 to adopt the Internet regulations, an FCC official expressed confidence that Wheeler’s proposal put the agency on solid legal footing. But the trade groups representing ISPs blasted the order as unlawful and unnecessary.

“We will now turn to the courts for review,” USTelecom President Walter McCormick said in a statement after the Feb. 26 vote, “and given the broad consensus that exists on the underlying objectives, will look forward to working with the Congress on a bipartisan basis to advance legislation.” 

On March 12, the FCC released the 400-page Open Internet Order, which drew mixed reactions from industry, consumer groups and others. The regulations prohibit blocking and slowing down of Web content, ban ISPs from prioritizing traffic, and require disclosures about their commercial terms and network management practices.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, whose president and CEO Michael Powell chaired the FCC under the George W. Bush administration, said in a March 12 statement the order’s release “only confirms our fear that the Commission has gone well beyond creating enforceable open Internet rules, and has instead instituted a regulatory regime change for the Internet that will lead to years of litigation, serious collateral consequences for consumers, and ongoing market uncertainty that will slow America’s quest to advance broadband deployment and adoption.”

Meredith Attwell Baker, a former FCC commissioner who presently leads CTIA-The Wireless Association, also was disappointed in the FCC’s vote last month. In a Feb. 26 statement, she characterized the FCC’s action as running “counter to an express Congressional directive prohibiting the agency from treating mobile broadband like a utility service, making today’s decision not only unwise, but unlawful.”

Previous Internet rules that were adopted – and largely overturned – under former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski subjected wireless broadband services to fewer regulations than wired Internet service. But since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, smartphones and tablet computers have flooded the U.S. market — and Americans have become increasingly reliant each year on wireless services to access Web content for work and personal reasons.

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