Net neutrality lawsuits start to flow in the US

24 Mar 2015

USTelecom and Alamo Broadband are both quick off the mark, taking the US net neutrality rules to court weeks after the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) announcement.

In a surprisingly fast move, USTelecom – which includes the likes of AT&T and Verizon within its group – filed suit in Washington, as Alamo Broadband did likewise in New Orleans.

At the end of February the FCC took the decision to treat internet as a telecoms utility, basically setting strict parameters within which providers must operate.

As part of this law, high-speed internet is placed under a ‘common carrier’ position, whereby every customer must be treated as existing on a level playing field. It is essentially an updated version of Title II under the US Communications Act of 1934.

“We do not believe FCC’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable,” USTelecom president Walter McCormick said. “Therefore, we are filing a petition to protect our procedural rights in challenging the recently adopted open Internet order.”

Arbitrary and capricious

Within its petition, US Telecoms alleges that the FCC’s order “is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” Alamo goes further, alleging that the FCC hasn’t the authority to pass such an order which is “otherwise contrary to law”. “Alamo is thus aggrieved by the order and possesses standing to challenge it,” its lawyers said.

According to the Washinton Post’s sources, these speedy actions are predicated by the fact that certain sections of the FCC’s rules operate on different timelines.

So rather than waiting until the official publication of the rules in the federal register, companies are reacting to the realisation that some aspects were accepted as soon as the FCC published them on its website last week.

The FCC has called these petitions “premature and subject to dismissal.” “It is unclear whether the FCC will be immediately asking for the cases to be thrown out,” says the Washington Post.

Fast internet image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic