Telecom industry sues over Internet rules

Telecom industry sues over Internet rules

Major telecommunications companies are jumping to challenge new federal Internet service regulations in court, mere hours after the legal window opened on Monday morning.

The U.S. Telecom Association, which represents companies including AT&T and Verizon, filed a legal challenge against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new net neutrality regulations, claiming they broke the law by classifying Internet service as a utility.  

ADVERTISEMENT

“Reclassifying broadband Internet access as a public utility reverses decades of established legal precedent at the FCC and upheld by the Supreme Court,” trade group head Walter McCormick said in a statement.

The filing came just hours after the FCC regulations were printed in the Federal Register, which many believed to be the first opportunity opponents of the rules had to file suit against them.

Lawsuits from other major cable and telecom companies are expected in coming days, in what is likely to be a long and drawn-out battle over the fate of the expansive FCC action earlier this year.

The FCC has long expected the lawsuit over its controversial Web access regulations. The new rules seek to ensure that Web providers such as Verizon and Comcast cannot block, slow down or otherwise interfere with people’s access to particular websites on the Internet.

However, critics at major Internet service providers and within the Republican Party have said that taking the bold step of treating the Web like a public utility far surpasses the FCC’s authority and is an illegal exercise of its power.  

The legal wrangling over the rules could stretch out for years, and might not be resolved until a new president takes over the White House.

Some watchers have said that the looming possibility that they are either tossed out by a court or undone by a future president should prompt Congress to act and grant more certainty. However, a GOP-led movement to write a law enshrining some net neutrality protections but handicapping the FCC in other ways has yet to gain significant traction.

While most analysts have said that lawsuits would not be granted until the rules were formally published in the Federal Register on Monday, U.S. Telecom had previously filed suit over the regulations last month. At the time, it said that one reading of the regulations may have allowed for earlier lawsuits and it was filing “out of an abundance of caution.” 

In its new filing, the trade group said that its Monday action “supplements” that initial filing.