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The FCC prepares for legal challenges to net neutrality

Ben Johnson and Aparna Alluri Apr 1, 2015
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When the  Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued new rules on net neutrality earlier this year, it expected legal challenges to follow soon. Chairman Tom Wheeler even said as much back in November, according to The Hill: “The big dogs are going to sue regardless of what comes out.”

Well, the lawsuits have begun. In the last few weeks, the FCC was sued separately by a trade group and Texas-based internet provider, Alamo Broadband Inc. The group, United Telecom Association, represents major companies including Verizon and AT&T.

Both claim the government is overstepping its authority with the FCC rules, and seek to overturn them.

“What they are arguing is that the FCC rules apply ‘onerous restrictions’ on them and should be waived,” says Brian Fung, a technology reporter at The Washington Post. “This is the first opportunity by internet providers to challenge FCC rules and they are taking it.”

So what happens next? For one, Fung  says, the rules will only go into effect about two months after they are published in the Federal Register, where people will have access to the actual text of the legislation. But they haven’t been published yet.

“But already the FCC is working to respond to the lawsuits and said that they were going to basically move to have the cases thrown out,” says Fung.

There’s a chance that might happen because a lawsuit against the FCC by Verizon in 2010 was dismissed on grounds that the rules it was challenging hadn’t been published yet.   

Meanwhile, Congress is attempting to pass bipartisan legislation that would repeal the net neutrality rules. The goal would be to replace them with regulations, which, according to Fung, would “enshrine some of the same principles into law,” except the FCC would not be involved.  

Given President Barack Obama’s support for the FCC’s new rules, he is likely to veto such a bill, added Fung.

“That’s why getting democratic support for a bill is going to be so important,” he says.  

 

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