Telecom head 'quite confident' of defeating net neutrality in court

Telecom head 'quite confident' of defeating net neutrality in court

The head of a major industry trade group says he is “quite confident” of defeating the government's net-neutrality regulations in court.

“I’m quite confident that the court is going to say what is clear on the face of the statute: There is no authority for the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to be regulating the Internet,” U.S. Telecom Association President Walter McCormick said in an interview on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.”

“Then, I hope that we can get Congress to expand the FCC’s authority to be able to address these issues that everybody agrees are important.”

U.S. Telecom — which represents companies such as AT&T and Verizon — was one of the first industry groups to file a lawsuit against the FCC’s regulations this week. Several other major trade groups have sued as well, including AT&T, and the cases could take years to wind through the courts.

The FCC’s new rules take the controversial step of reclassifying broadband Internet access as a “common carrier,” or utility, service under Title II of the Communications Act. The FCC has said that those rules are the only way it can be sure that it has power to make sure that Web providers aren’t blocking, slowing or otherwise affecting people’s access to the Internet.

Most broadband companies say that they agree with the spirit of the rules, but just take issue with the FCC’s new approach.

“There’s complete consensus on the objectives,” McCormick said in the C-SPAN interview.

However, under legislation last updated in 1996, “the FCC has no clear authority to regulate the Internet.” Instead, he and others have urged Congress to take the lead. 

The FCC has disagreed about its lack of authority. 

It endeavored to write new rules beginning last year, after 2010 regulations were tossed out by a top appeals court. Some readings of the court decision at the time said that the court expressly confirmed the FCC’s authority to regulate access to the Internet, but that it had gone about writing the rules in the wrong way.

U.S. Telecom previously filed a suit against the rules last month, but it is unclear whether that suit will stand, because the FCC’s rules had not yet been formally published in the Federal Register at the time.