Providers: FCC could become 'Department of the Internet'

Telecom providers and trade groups on Wednesday asked an appeals court to rush through a delay of new net neutrality rules before they take effect on June 12. 

In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., the group warned that Internet service providers face millions of dollars in losses and a "torrent" of enforcement proceedings at the Federal Communications Commission if the rules take hold. 

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"These challenges thus present some of the most consequential questions this court is likely to encounter regarding technology, the future of the economy, and the boundaries of administrative law," the group wrote. 

Citing language from GOP FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's dissent to the new rules, the group added: "If the order becomes effective, the FCC will become the 'Department of the Internet.' "

A host of lawsuits have been filed in the same court to fully strike down the FCC's new regulations, which would reclassify Internet access under authority governing traditional telephones. The FCC made the move to increase its authority to police net neutrality, the idea that no piece of Internet traffic should be prioritized above another.

But Republicans and service providers are fiercely against the move. The groups are challenging the FCC's authority to reclassify fixed and broadband Internet, while also taking issue with the rule-making process itself. 

The lawsuits could take years, and service providers are asking the courts to put the new rules on hold until the courts make a final ruling. Previous net neutrality took effect only to be struck down last year. 

"Consumers and the industry would face a twice-convulsive situation if a new and extraordinarily broad regulatory regime were imposed on broadband providers, only to then be vacated," according to the filing. 

At a minimum, the group asked the court to prioritize the case. 

The FCC denied a similar request last week, arguing the rules are "well within the commission’s statutory authority, is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and fully complies with the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The petition was filed by AT&T, CenturyLink, US Telecom, CTIA-The Wireless Association, The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association and the American Cable Association.