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Telecoms file first lawsuits against FCC net neutrality rules

Telecoms file first lawsuits against FCC net neutrality rules

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The first lawsuits against the FCC's new net neutrality rules have come in, according to The Washington Post. The Post writes that two parties — industry group USTelecom and regional service provider Alamo Broadband — have respectively filed suit in Washington and New Orleans. USTelecom thinks that the rules, which were officially released on March 12th, are not "legally sustainable," and that the FCC should abandon its decision to regulate broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. "We do not block or throttle traffic, and FCC rules prohibiting blocking or throttling will not be the focus of our appeal," said senior vice president Jon Banks in a statement. Alamo believes it's suffering harm under the new requirements, which ban internet service providers from blocking, discriminating against, or speeding up internet traffic from specific sources.

The FCC quickly confirmed these lawsuits. In a statement given to The Verge, a spokesperson for the FCC said: "The Commission was served today with two challenges to the Open Internet Order. We believe that the petitions for review filed today are premature and subject to dismissal."

There's been widespread speculation about whether (or when) internet service providers might sue over the rules that FCC chair Tom Wheeler introduced in February. The last set of net neutrality rules failed to stand up to a lawsuit by Verizon, which argued that they imposed unfair regulations against broadband companies. The current policy was drafted to get around this issue; it redefines broadband as a Title II "telecommunications service" that can be more firmly governed than its previous designation, an "information service." Title II can be used for relatively heavy, utility-style rules, but Wheeler has promised to forbear on the stricter sections, as well as any that would mandate new fees.

Beyond the actual content of the rules, the big question is whether companies actually have any standing to sue at this point. The proposal was voted on late last month, and the details were publicly available as of two weeks ago, but they haven't yet been published in the Federal Register, which would set a date for them to take effect. Unnamed legal experts have told the Post that "certain sections" of the FCC's rules took effect when they were published to the agency's site, allowing companies to file complaints before the rules are actually in place, although this seems highly debatable.

USTelecom acknowledges the possibility that it will have to appeal later, after the rules are entered, but says it filed the earliest possible complaint "out of an abundance of caution." Whatever the case, these almost certainly won't be the first lawsuits the FCC will have to defend its net neutrality decision against.

Update, 6:40PM ET: added confirmation and statement from the FCC.

Update, 8:20AM ET: added confirmation and statement from USTelecom.