A group of cable companies, ISPs and industry associations has filed a formal motion with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to stay the implementation of the Federal Communications Commission's order to place Internet access under Title II of the Communications Act, a move predicted in this column just a few days ago.
The industry group wasted no time to head to court after the FCC refused its petition seeking the same thing that they are heading to court to obtain.
The stay alleges that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedures Act, Congressional intent, FCC precedent and a variety of laws, including the Communication Act, when the agency acted to move Internet access to Title II. In addition to requesting a stay, the motion also requested that any hearing be expedited if the stay is not granted.
The petition for the stay was a consolidated effort made after the court directed the petitioners to present their case in a single motion, rather than the separate motions that they had originally planned.
However, the petition is fairly broad since it must convey the concerns of a group of diverse organizations, ranging from the CTIA to US Telecom and AT&T. The potential damages quoted range from pole connection charges and new taxes to violations of the law and arbitrary action. A wide variety of real and anticipated harmful events are listed. The petition to the court is a laundry list of grievances.
Now that the petition has been filed, what happens next will matter a lot to future of the Internet, but as is frequently the case when the government gets involved, that future could be rife with unintended consequences. Depending on whom the court sides with on these claims and counter-claims, the Internet could remain alive and vibrant, or the once-bright promise of a free and open Internet could dim with network congestion and fees.
It's also a question of whom you can believe, if indeed you can believe anyone. The petitioners say they're not opposing net neutrality, but rather the reclassification of the Internet to Title II, which is the same law that controls common carriers, such as phone companies.
"This reclassification does not serve the public interest," said US Telecom president Walter McCormick in a prepared statement, "but unlawfully paves the way toward expansive government management of the Internet. The facts show the FCC had no adequate legal basis for reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a Title II utility telecommunications service. The order does not provide a solid legal basis for overriding the governing statute and decades of commission and court decisions that contradict this changed classification."
McCormick said that the reclassification would place unreasonable burdens on everyone involved and that it would raise expenses and taxes to ultimately hurt Internet users.