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Here they come: first net neutrality lawsuits

US Telecom vs FCC

The first of the lawsuits against the FCC’s net neutrality order were filed Monday.

U.S. Telecom, representing many of the nation’s broadband providers, filed its lawsuit in the Washington, DC court of appeals. Alamo Broadband, a small wireless broadband provider in the San Antonio suburbs, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

Passed in a 3-2 party line vote last month, the FCC’s order reclassifies Internet service as a utility in order to enforce open principles of no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization.

While these are the first legal challenges to the FCC’s order, they likely won’t be last. The largest Internet service providers, or “the big dogs” as FCC chairman Tom Wheeler calls them, are expected to file suit once the FCC order is published in the federal register in the coming weeks.

US Telecom said it filed Monday as a precaution to preserve its legal rights.

“The focus of our legal appeal will be on the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband Internet access service as a public utility service after a decade of amazing innovation and investment under the FCC’s previous light-touch approach. As our industry has said many times, we do not block or throttle traffic and FCC rules prohibiting blocking or throttling will not be the focus our appeal,” said Jon Banks, senior vice president of US Telecom.

In its filings, both US Telecom and Alamo seek review of the FCC order on the grounds that it is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”

An FCC spokesperson said, “We believe that the petitions for review filed today are premature and subject to dismissal.”

In 2010, the DC Circuit dismissed as “incurably premature” a similar petition challenging the FCC’s 2010 open internet rules.

Most of the cases are expected to be filed once the order hits the Federal Register in the coming weeks. However, there is some debate that parts of the order became legal the minute the FCC published them on its web site.