On the heels of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to reclassify the Internet under Title II of its Telecommunications Act of 1996, it was only a matter of time before opponents officially contested it. They simply had to wait for the appropriate time and venue. That time is now.
On April 13, 2015, the FCC published its new net-neutrality rules for the Internet in the Federal Register. As expected, the American Cable Association, AT&T, the CTIA—The Wireless Association, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association filed lawsuits with the D.C. Court of Appeals. Of course, these organizations weren’t the first. USTelecom and regional service provider Alamo Broadband filed lawsuits in March, soon after the rules were released for public review.
Meanwhile, as happens with most politically polarizing issues, some members of congress also tried to do what they could to block the FCC. In April, they unveiled plans to fast-track new legislation that would repeal the FCC’s rules. The Republican contingent that supports the legislation only needs a simple majority to pass it, but it faces an almost certain veto from President Barack Obama, who in 2014 kick-started this most recent FCC push with a firm show of support.
However, the FCC has been here before. In fact, it specifically chose Title II because it believes the classification will give it more clout in court. In January 2014, the FCC lost a similar lawsuit after years of attempting to pass net-neutrality rules, and it faced this setback because of a technicality. With Title II, the FCC rectifies that technicality and is now better equipped to face the same opposition.
Net-neutrality has a complex history. In March, the FCC passed new rules that would reclassify the Internet as a common carrier, and, as such, Internet service providers would fall under the FCC’s regulatory jurisdiction. The FCC would then have the authority to ensure the Internet remains open for all users.
With these lawsuits on the docket, the future of net-neutrality isn’t certain. However, when it passed the new rules to reclassify the Internet, the FCC reached a much stronger position in a battle it has been fighting for decades. It will likely be years before these lawsuits are officially resolved, and they could go as high as the Supreme Court.
About The Author
Timothy Johnson is the former digital editor for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine.