The Federal Communications Commission will not delay the start of its recently enacted net neutrality rules after rejecting requests from two groups of broadband providers and industry trade groups that asked the agency to wait until several legal cases are resolved.
In a 19-page order denying the delay requests, the FCC said on May 8 that the groups asking for the delay had failed to meet the requirements that would have allowed the agency to put them off.
The opponents of the new rules object to the FCC's reclassification of the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the U.S. Communications Act, which gives the FCC the power to regulate Internet communications in the United States. Title II was originally intended to make sure that telephone companies provided service to anyone in their coverage area. The opponents argue that the FCC's reclassification of the Internet will harm consumers, stifle innovation and ultimately be bad for the Internet itself.
The reclassification and other rules changes are set to go into effect on June 12, unless blocked by the courts. The latest legal actions do not object to the other rule changes recently made by the FCC regarding net neutrality, including bans on slowing down access speeds for some users.
The opponents claim that the FCC's move to place broadband providers under the rules of Title II is arbitrary and capricious, and violates federal law.
The two groups that filed their delay requests are made up of the USTelecom Association, CTIA-The Wireless Association, AT&T, CenturyLink and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association in one petition, and by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association in another petition.
In its response to the petitions, the FCC ruled that it rejected the requests because the applicants "failed to demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits" of their case, since the FCC's classification of fixed and mobile telecommunications services falls "well within the Commission's statutory authority," according to the FCC's filing.
The FCC also rejected the claim by the petitioners that the FCC's actions will irreparably harm others as a result of the new rules.
The two groups had asked the FCC to delay the new rules in written filings on May 1, according to a May 2 report by Reuters. The groups argued that the FCC's move to reclassify broadband Internet as a more heavily regulated telecommunications service will harm consumers and businesses.
The legal battle over the new net neutrality rules is likely to go on for some time.
In March and April, the FCC was hit with six earlier petitions opposing the Title II reclassification of the Internet, according to earlier eWEEK reports. Those legal actions were filed separately by AT&T, the CTIA mobile trade association, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the American Cable Association, USTelecom, a Washington-based telecommunications trade group and Alamo Broadband, an Elmendorf, Texas-based broadband provider.
In February, the FCC approved its new net neutrality rules by a 3-2 vote, with the key and most controversial change being that the agency will now begin to regulate the Internet as a public utility under Title II.
Many critics passionately opposed the move, arguing that the Internet did not need that kind of oversight and that it would ultimately stifle innovation and increase costs and hassle for consumers. The FCC countered that the new regulations would "set sustainable rules of the roads that will protect free expression and innovation on the Internet and promote investment in the nation's broadband networks," according to an earlier eWEEK report. Two prior attempts by the FCC to set rules for Internet use into the future were struck down by courts, but the latest attempt resolves the legal issues that eventually undermined those attempts, the agency said. Critics vehemently disagree with that analysis.
The new FCC rules also include key provisions that broadband providers cannot block access to legal content, applications and services, nor can they "throttle," or slow up, access to lawful Internet traffic, according to the FCC. Also prohibited under the new rules is paid prioritization in which broadband providers could favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for extra payments, essentially prohibiting so-called fast lanes to the highest bidders.
The issue of net neutrality has been a hotbed for several years, with proponents and opponents arguing their positions and bashing the opposition verbally in public forums and discussions.