First Lawsuits Filed Over FCC Open Internet Rules

Tom Wheeler

The first two legal actions against the FCC’s Open Internet plan were filed Monday by a telecommunications association and a Texas broadband service.

The US Telecom Association, which represents a number of large broadband providers, filed a suit in the appeals court, fifth circuit, in Washington, D.C. Alamo Broadband, based in San Antonio, Texas, reportedly filed its suit in New Orleans.

FCC Votes to Preserve Open, Neutral Internet

The suits were first reported by The Washington Post.

A spokeswoman for USTelecom confirmed the legal action and provided a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

"As we have said throughout this debate," said USTelecom president Walter McCormick in a statement, "our member companies conduct their business in conformance with the open Internet principles, and support their enactment into law. However, we also support a regulatory approach that relies upon Section 706 authority of the Communications Act, and we do not believe the Federal Communications Commission’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable."

"The focus of our legal appeal," added USTelecom senior vp Jon Banks, "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."

USTelecom said it filed a "protective petition for review" with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia as a "precautionary move to preserve procedural rights in challenging" the FCC.

It said it felt it had to file something within 10 days of when the FCC order was published in the federal register.

In its filing, according to The Washington Post, Alamo charges that the use of Title II will apply onerous requirements on it.

These two are the first of an expected slew of legal challenges to the controversial FCC decision passed by a three to two vote (along party lines) Feb. 26.

In a statement to the Post, the FCC acknowledged it had been served the two legal suits. It called the petitions "premature and subject to dismissal."

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has made it clear he expected legal challenges and has said the FCC will vigorously defend its decision to regulate broadband services using Title II and other regulations.

"This is only the opening salvo in what could be a decade of litigation," said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a group that has opposed the FCC's actions. "Lawsuits were inevitable from the moment Chairman Wheeler moved toward heavy-handed regulation of the Internet under Title II. That’s great news for telecom lawyers; it means full employment for years to come. But for many consumers, it means delays in investment and broadband upgrades."

Separately, the state of Tennessee also sued the FCC over its decision at the same Feb. 26 meeting to overrule state law and allow one city to run a municipal Internet service.

This article was first published by The Hollywood Reporter.