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Internet pioneers to file lawsuit against FCC net neutrality order

An ad hoc group of Internet gray beards, folks who can credibly claim they had a big hand creating the Internet we use today, intend to file a lawsuit and seek a stay against the FCC’s net neutrality order.

Loosely called Tech Innovators, the group includes more than a dozen of the early Internet pioneers including Marc Cuban, an original streaming media innovator; Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet; Ray Ozzie, founder of Lotus Notes; Jeff Pulver, co-founder of Vonage; Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3.com; and John Perry Barlow, founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead.

The group’s lawsuit will have to be filed before April 23, the deadline for asking the court for a stay.

“These guys are all super successful and they are freaked out,” said Daniel Berninger, the founder of the Voice Communication Exchange Committee, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit working to speed the transition to all IP telco networks. “For 60 years the FCC had no say and then they say you were so successful we’re going to regulate you. This isn’t the way you run the country.”

Ahead of the suit, the group sent a letter Thursday to eight lawmakers – the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate commerce committee and Internet subcommittees – urging them to pass a bill that would re-establish “a bright line between the legacy services subject to Title II and Internet services – a Rubicon that the FCC’s order expressly crosses.”

In a bit of marketing fanfare, the group also wants Congress to name April 30 as “Internet Independence Day” in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the birth of the commercial Internet, the day the government turned the Internet backbone over to the marketplace.

Berninger said the group will also add a “populist” piece to its campaign to counter the 4 million comments the FCC received from the public prior to the proceeding.

So far, there have been five lawsuits challenging the FCC’s order to reclassify Internet services as common carriers, all by companies or associations that represent companies that operate Internet services, AT&T, NCTA, CTIA-The Wireless Association, ACA, and USTelecom.

“My sense is that the legal process will go really badly for the FCC. We’ll get a stay right away,” Berninger predicted. “When there’s leverage, there will be a Congressional solution.”

Congressional Republicans are working on a bill that they hope will attract some Democratic support. A joint draft, by

Senate commerce chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), House commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee, would codify the principles of the FCC’s net neutrality order, but limit the FCC’s authority over broadband.