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Tom Wheeler Expects FCC to Be Sued ‘Regardless’ Of What Net Neutrality Rules Look Like

Tom Wheeler FCC
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters on Friday that he expects that the agency will be sued regardless of what kind of net neutrality rules it decides upon in the coming weeks or months.

“Let’s make sure that we understand what is going on here,” Wheeler said. “The big dogs are going to sue regardless of what comes out.”

Earlier this month, President Obama announced that he favors reclassifying the Internet as a Title II service, a regulatory maneuver that public interest groups and other advocates believe will put the FCC on solid legal footing to pass rules that prevent Internet providers from selling “fast lanes” to content, or otherwise prioritizing the traffic reach to consumers.

Wheeler has not said whether that is the direction he will take, but such a move has already drawn opposition from telecom and cable Internet providers as a regulatory overreach.

But there has been some speculation that the FCC would move to reclassify as Title II if it can be assured that it would withstand a legal challenge, even if it is likely to trigger opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“Every time in this whole discussion, anytime the commission has been moved to do something, one of the big dogs have gone to sue, so I guess we should be informed by history,” Wheeler said.

After the FCC passed net neutrality rules in 2010, Verizon challenged the agency, and in January the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned key elements that prohibit Internet providers from discrimination and blocking.

Wheeler did not give an indication of when the FCC would take up the new net neutrality rules, although it does not appear on the agency’s agenda for its December meeting.

“I want to move forward…with dispatch,” he said. “I also want open Internet rules that can be sustained.”

Wheeler said that he has not talked to Obama since he made the announcement in support of Title II.