FCC already prepping for net neutrality lawsuit

Federal regulators writing new net neutrality rules want to make sure their regulations can withstand a court challenge.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters on Friday that he was fully expecting major cable companies to sue over the new rules, no matter what they look like.

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“The big dogs are going to sue regardless of what comes out,” Wheeler told reporters after the commission’s meeting on Friday.

“We need to make sure that we have sustainable rules, and that starts with making sure that we have addressed the multiplicity of issues that come along and are likely to be raised."

“I want to move on open Internet rules with dispatch,” he added, using the FCC’s formal term for new regulations that seek to prevent Internet service companies such as Comcast or Verizon from slowing, blocking or otherwise interfering with people’s access to websites across the Internet. “I also want to have open Internet rules that are sustained.”

The FCC is writing new net neutrality regulations after its previous rules were challenged in court by Verizon and tossed out earlier this year. Another lawsuit over whatever the FCC decides to issue in coming months is considered inevitable, potentially dragging the issue out for years. 

The commission was originally planning to vote on new rules next month but pushed its plans back last week in order to deal with lingering questions about the legal structure of potential new rules. New regulations aren’t likely to be issued until some point next year.

The uncertainty about the timeline for future rules is already causing a headache for some telecommunications companies, even though they are the ones likely to stretch the process out.