Let the Lawsuits Begin: Broadband Industry Challenges Net Neutrality

by Matt Klassen on March 25, 2015

Just a few weeks old and the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial Net Neutrality have now officially met its first legal challenges, as US broadband providers have filed lawsuits to overturn the open Internet regulations.

The USTelecom Association, a trade firm representing some of America’s largest Internet providers, was the first to the plate on Monday, filing a complaint with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The complaint contends that the FCC’s reclassifying of broadband service under Title II of the Communications Act is a violation of federal law and was “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The Texas-based Alamo Broadband followed suit the same day, making similar arguments in opposition to the FCC’s reclassification.

It wasn’t long ago that the broadband community banded together to fight against the FCC’s first several iterations of the Net Neutrality regulations, fights they ultimately won that in turn forced the FCC to find proper legal footing for its open Internet standards. What’s ironic now is that the broadband community has publicly declared its support for the idea of Net Neutrality—ostensibly embracing the less onerous rules proposed in previous iterations of the FCC’s plans—while rejecting the path they forced the FCC to take with their previous legal challenges. All that to say, this is only the beginning of the legal challenges we all knew would appear when meaningful regulations were imposed upon the broadband industry, regulations for which the industry has only itself to blame.

The new rules—approved in a controversial partisan 3-2 vote—imposed Net Neutrality regulation based on a redefinition of broadband service as a public utility, allowing the government to regulate the infrastructure of the Internet much as it does for telecommunications. As stated from the beginning, the rules prohibit arbitrary throttling and other such network management practices, ban paid prioritization of service, and ban blocking and restricting access for both wired and wireless traffic.

The rules have found legal grounding in the reclassification process, a move that gives the FCC oversight, and despite the broadband industries’ opposition to everything I wrote in the previous paragraph, they’re now more than happy to accept all of that if they can reverse the reclassification—of course, once reversed the FCC’s Net Neutrality standards again lose legal grounding and are once again completely neutered.

“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.”

The humorous thing about that statement is, of course, that it’s blatantly false. The broadband industry, generally speaking, has opposed the establishment and implementation of Net Neutrality regulations since they were first conceived some fiver years ago, and since then have taken to lobbying and legal challenges to prevent any form of open Internet regulations coming to pass.

Of course when the industry realized its folly, the fact that some sort of Net Neutrality framework was inevitable and that its own legal challenges were spurring the FCC on to more onerous regulation, the industry quickly attempted to embrace older versions of Net Neutrality standards…but by then it was far too late.

So bring on the legal challenges, for once I have faith that despite the FCC’s repeated bungling of this entire process that for once, this time, Net Neutrality will stand firm against an industry that has abused and gouged its consumer base for far too long. I’m still so naïve…

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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