Flurry of lawsuits filed against Internet rules

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Major trade groups representing the telecommunications and wireless industries are rushing to file lawsuits to kill the new net neutrality rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

Three groups announced lawsuits within minutes of each other on Tuesday. AT&T unveiled a stand-alone suit later in the day, bringing the total number to five.  

CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents most of the major wireless carriers, filed suit Tuesday. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) announced that it had also filed a separate appeal to block the rules just minutes later. 

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The American Cable Association (ACA), which represents smaller independent cable companies, rounded out the group with a challenge. All three suits were filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

CTIA expressed confidence that the court will reject the commission’s “overreach," asserting the commission "usurped" Congress's authority.

“CTIA had no choice but to seek judicial review to preserve the regulatory approach that has been instrumental in helping the U.S. become the global leader in 4G services,” the group’s president, Meredith Attwell Baker, said in a statement. 

NCTA will be represented by to high-profile lawyers: former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and former U.S. Attorney Miguel Estrada, who have both argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court. 

"The FCC Order contravenes critical principles of administrative law and fundamentally misapplies statutes passed by Congress,” Estrada said. “I believe that the courts will reject the Commission’s unsound process and faulty legal reasoning."

It its filing, the ACA told the court the rules are “arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the FCC’s statutory authority [and] contrary to the Constitution.”

Both the NTCA an CTIA specifically alleged that the rules violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the Communications Act as well as the Constitution. 

Monday signaled the starting gun for critics to challenge the rules after they were published in the Federal Register. On Monday, the U.S. Telecom Association filed its lawsuit hours after the regulations were published. 

The FCC rules, approved in a 3-2 vote in February, would reclassify broadband Internet access — including mobile — as a telecommunications service, similar to landline telephones. The new designation will give the commission increased authority to enforce rules barring service providers like Verizon or AT&T from prioritizing any piece of Internet traffic above another. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been saying for months that the agency wrote the rules to withstand challenges from “the big dogs.” During a speech late last month, Wheeler said the commission addressed the major hangup that led to a court striking down previous rules. 

"That gives me great confidence going forward that we will prevail," he said at the time. 

The trade groups said they are still hoping for a congressional solution. Republicans have floated a number of proposals that would either block the rules or replace them. But any proposal would need bipartisan support to get across the presidential veto and no Democrat has signed on to legislation.

—Updated 5:25 p.m.