As expected, the FCC’s recently passed net neutrality regulations came under fresh legal fire today. USTelecom, a telecommunications-focused trade group, filed suit, calling the FCC’s open Internet regulations “arbitrary” and “capricious.”
The FCC passed net neutrality regulations this year on a party-line vote of 3 to 2, reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. The vote brought jeers and applause from Congress and the larger technology industry. Republican leadership in Congress and large Internet service providers opposed the vote, while Democrats and other swaths of the technology industry were in favor.
The USTelecom suit is notable in that it doesn’t oppose net neutrality per se, but instead hits the FCC’s approach to the issue. In a release, the group argued that its “appeal is not focused on challenging the objectives articulated by [President Obama], but instead the unjustifiable shift [by the FCC] backward to common carrier regulation[.]”
What does USTelecom want? According to its filing, the group wants a “review of the Order,” which it feels is “an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act,” and “violates federal law, including, but not limited to, the Constitution, [and] the Communications Act of 1934.”
That’s quite a lot. The FCC, in response to the suit, told TechCrunch in a statement that it is “confident” that its new rules “will be upheld by the courts.”
The FCC has said similar things in the past, with both the Chairman of the FCC Tom Wheeler, and one of his top lawyers, Gigi Sohn, going on the record to state emphatically that the their agency will prevail in court. Sohn called the new net neutrality rules’ grounding in more than one legal foundation akin to wearing both a belt and suspenders, a standard cliché for over-preparedness that she used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.
The agency anticipated the legal challenge, making the suit the precise opposite of a surprise. Sohn, in the same interview as previously quoted, called lawsuits against the FCC’s net neutrality regulations “inevitable.”
Chairman Tom Wheeler is joining TechCrunch next month at Disrupt NY for an interview. Don’t miss it.