We all knew it was going to happen, we were just waiting for when it was going to happen. Well, it has happened: the US Telecom giants have formed themselves together into a trade body called USTelecom to go head to head against the FCC in its fight for net neutrality.
AT&T and Verizon are among other telcos that are upset about the FCC’s landmark ruling about what ISPs can and can’t do in the United States by reclassifying them as common carriers.
The new regulations the FCC is planning on enforcing will impact the ISPs bottom lines, so the legal challenges were expected. The new legislation will prevent ISPs from treating certain websites differently from others, and charging companies like Netflix for the privilege of streaming to their customers.
USTelecom’s new “protective petition” lawsuit was filed on Monday, but isn’t the first to sue the FCC. It follows a similar lawsuit lobbed at the FCC by a Texas ISP, Alamo Broadband.
US broadband companies like AT&T and Verizon are furious about being reclassified as common carriers because of the heavy regulations imposed on them. They say that in the lawsuit that the move “violates federal law, including, but not limited to, the Constitution, the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, and FCC regulations promulgated thereunder.”
USTelecom is demanding is demanding that the FCC’s Open Internet Order be reviewed because they claim that it is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”
While net neutrality regulation may be the hallmark feature of the Open Internet Order, it also enforces things such as clearer pricing for broadband packages. The big telcos would like to get rid of this before it becomes law, and before it does so, it must be scrutinized by Congress.
“We do not believe the Federal Communications Commission’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable,” USTelecom President Walter McCormick said in a statement. “Therefore, we are filing a petition to protect our procedural rights in challenging the recently adopted open Internet order.”
Over at the Washington Post, Matt Wood, policy director of the group Free Press, said that “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. Apparently some of them couldn’t wait to make good on that threat.”
Because there was only a couple month window to file a petition against the FCC, the current one is a placeholder of sorts until USTelecom can get together a larger lawsuit to hit the FCC with.
We will have to wait and see how things turn out. Hopefully the FCC and its chairman, Tom Wheeler, can push through this and continue down its path of maintaining a free and open internet, but the industry lobbyists can be very powerful.
Cartoon of Tom Wheeler courtesy of DonkeyHotey.