First Court Challenges Filed Against FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC’s net neutrality rules passed on a narrow 3-2 vote last month, but supporters and opponents were unanimous in their prediction of what was likely to happen next: a court challenge.

On Monday, a telecom industry group did just that, asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the FCC’s net neutrality order. USTelecom, representing major Internet providers, contends that the FCC’s action was “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” and that it violated federal law. It is asking the appeals court to vacate the order.

The FCC’s rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling content, or from accepting payment to deliver traffic to subscribers at a faster speed. In a move to establish legal footing to impose the rules, the FCC reclassified the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service, a move that drew an outcry from major cable and telecom firms.

USTelecom president Walter McCormick said they “do not believe the Federal Communications Commission’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable.”

Another Internet service provider, Alamo Broadband, also filed a court challenge, asking the appellate court to vacate the order.

USTelecom said it filed its petition for review out of an “abundance of caution,” as there is some confusion as to whether the new rules became final on the date it was issued on March 12 or when it is published in the Federal Register, which has yet to happen.

An FCC spokeswoman said, “We believe that the petitions for review filed today are premature and subject to dismissal.”

The D.C. Circuit dismissed Verizon’s 2011 challenge to a previous set of net neutrality rules on the grounds that the appeal was filed before publication in the Federal Register. Verizon then filed a new complaint.

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