Tech firms flood court in support of net neutrality

Major tech companies and other supporters of the Federal Communications Commission’s new Internet rules are expected to flood the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit on Monday with arguments in favor of the regulations. 

Monday is the deadline for supporters of the FCC’s net neutrality regulations to file their friend of the court briefs, defending the agency against a lawsuit from Internet service providers who are challenging the commission’s authority to create the new rules. 

Dozens of groups in the Internet and telecommunications industries have staked out their positions on the FCC’s decision to reclassify Internet service as a “telecommunications service,” rather than its previous classification as a less regulated “information service.” 

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The new designation gave the FCC more authority to regulate conduct from Internet service providers — like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T — that control the lines that allow customers to browse the Internet and stream video. The rules are meant to ensure those service providers treat Internet traffic equally, barring them from slowing traffic to certain websites or creating fast lanes for those willing to pay. 

The Internet Association was one of the first out of the gate Sunday with a filing. The group, which represents major players like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and others, argued the “FCC took necessary action to protect the Internet’s openness.”

“Today, consumers use the Internet for much more than the few information services the ISPs provide. They enjoy literally limitless choice for news, text and voice communication, commerce, video, travel, and countless other services,” according to the trade group

The Internet Association, which represents companies that make up $1.3 trillion of the U.S. economy, focused its brief more on why the rules are necessary rather than the legal underpinnings, which were outlined in the FCC’s 218-page brief earlier this month. 

The trade group argued service providers have “absolute control” over their Internet infrastructure, which gives them incentives that could endanger the Web. 

“They might, for instance, remake the Internet into a closed delivery system like cable TV, where subscribers can choose only among the channels in their cable provider’s pre-selected lineup,” according to the brief. “Such an outcome would undo much of the progress of the last two decades.”

Nearly 50 groups and individuals have motioned to issue backup arguments for the FCC. Among them are privacy and civil liberties groups, major tech companies, trade groups and even some lawmakers, including Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Overnight Healthcare: Dems trying to force Zika vote | White House tries to stall opioids bill for $$ | Free Lyft rides from ObamaCare Overnight Healthcare: New momentum to lift ban on gay men donating blood MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). 

The telecom trade groups suing over the new rules and those supporting the challenge issued their arguments in July and August. Another round of replies will be due in October and oral arguments will be heard in December.