Open-Internet Decision Opens Door to Litigation

Open-Internet Decision Opens Door to Litigation

After much fervent debate, lobbying and public opinion, by a 3-2 vote the Federal Communications Commission passed new net neutrality rules, ensuring that Internet service providers will treat all legal content equally. What’s next? Most likely, lawsuits to overturn the rules.

ISPs are now reclassified as public utilities and are subject to these rules, which include not blocking or slowing down service and not giving higher-speed priority in exchange for payment, also known as “paid prioritization.”

According to USA Today, Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 gives the authority for these rules. Furthermore, regulators must “forbear” from some provisions of Title II, “including pricing regulation and other parts that are less relevant to broadband services.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said during the historic vote that the “Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules” and that “we finally have legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet stays fast, fair and open.”

Pro-business advocates and ISPs, including wireless carriers, emphatically disagree, contending that the rules will limit new services and network innovation. Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president-external and legislative affairs said in a statement:

What doesn’t make sense, and has never made sense, is to take a regulatory framework developed for Ma Bell in the 1930s and make her great grandchildren, with technologies and options undreamed of eighty years ago, live under it.”

Cicconi also indicated that the ISPs now “face the uncertainty of litigation.”

Interestingly, per Ars Technica, the FCC passed net neutrality rules in 2010 but the rules were overturned following a Verizon lawsuit.

“By winning that case, Verizon inadvertently opened itself and all other Internet providers up to even stricter rules. The new rules go beyond the net neutrality rules passed in 2010. And this time around, the FCC is applying the rules equally to fixed and mobile broadband, whereas its 2010 rules went easier on Verizon’s wireless subsidiary and other cellular companies.”

In addition to legal challenges, the decision could also face Congressional action in the form of proposed legislation that would eliminate Title II restrictions.

A great deal is at stake for both sides of the net neutrality debate. Where do you stand? Please share your opinion below.

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