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Four things to watch for as net neutrality rules go into effect

Grant Gross | June 15, 2015
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules went into effect Friday, after an appeals court denied multiple requests to delay them while the agency faces 10 lawsuits challenging the regulations.

Still, opponents of the rules applauded the court's decision to grant plaintiffs' requests for an expedited brief filing schedule in the lawsuits. The expedited briefing schedule may indicate that the court sees some potential harm to broadband providers through the rules, said Berin Szoka, president of free market think tank TechFreedom.

So the broadband groups bringing the lawsuits still believe they have a good case. "We are now ready to get to the merits of the case and are confident as ever that we will prevail," the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) said in a statement.

What happens now with the lawsuit?

We're still many months away from a resolution. The 10 lawsuits against the FCC are now all combined in a single proceeding in the D.C. appeals court, with one case moved from a Louisiana appeals court earlier this week.

Proposed brief-filing schedules from the parties in the combined lawsuit are due June 25. So at this point, the court is talking just about scheduling, not even about the substance of the lawsuits.

What will the broadband groups argue before the court?

Many of the plaintiffs have already laid out their basic arguments against the rules. The broadband groups generally don't oppose the FCC's rules against blocking or throttling Web traffic, but they hate the agency's decision to reclassify broadband as a regulated telecom service.

One of their main assertions is that the FCC didn't adequately develop a record supporting reclassification of broadband. When FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler first proposed new net neutrality rules in May 2014, he didn't advocate for reclassification, but advocated for that change early this year. The plaintiffs will argue the FCC collected public comment on Wheeler's original proposal and didn't give adequate notice of the shift toward reclassification.

The FCC's decision to reclassify broadband violates the Telecommunications Act's definitions of telecom service and information service, the NCTA said in a briefing on the lawsuit earlier this month. The FCC's net neutrality order also "abandons its longstanding policy and factual findings" for treating broadband as an information service, the group said.

The FCC has defended its decision, noting that it told broadband providers that reclassification was on the table since the beginning of the debate. Agencies have the authority to reverse old regulations if they find good reasons for doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

 

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