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Sinister lobby group (AT&T, Verizon among membership) sues FCC to kill net neut

More sinister than Google, though? You decide

A powerful US telco lobby group, of which AT&T and Verizon are prominent members, has refiled its lawsuit against the FCC's net neutrality rules.

The rules, which will bring internet access providers under stricter regulation, were published in the Federal Register early on Monday – the final step in making them legally applicable.

In response, telco lobby group USTelecom immediately resent its two-page complaint in which it calls the rules "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion," and asks the Washington DC courts to reject them on the grounds that the FCC did not follow the correct procedure.

In reality, the complaint [PDF] is just a placeholder in an effort to get the case heard in Washington DC, where the FCC's previous rules were rejected following a lawsuit from USTelecom member Verizon. Without a legal challenge, the rules would become law a month later – in this case, June 12.

A legal challenge was expected – and in fact, both USTelecom and Texas ISP Alamo Broadband previously filed complaints in anticipation of future rule-making.

In other words, the cable industry's lawyers are champing at the bit to tie up the rules with legislation, something that will mean years of delays before the rules finally become law.

Touch me lightly

In a press release, USTelecom president Walter McCormick was quoted as saying: “In challenging the legality of the FCC’s Open Internet order, USTelecom believes the FCC used the wrong approach to implementing net neutrality standards, which our industry supports and incorporates into everyday business practices.

"Our appeal is not focused on challenging the objectives articulated by the President, but instead the unjustifiable shift backward to common carrier regulation after more than a decade of significantly expanded broadband access and services for consumers under light-touch regulation."

He claimed that the rules would slow innovation and infrastructure investment, and lead to higher costs for consumers.

When the FCC passed the radical rules last month, it brought to a close almost a year of extensive lobbying and campaigning on all sides.

The telecom industry was initially certain it could have internet access reclassified under loose legislation, raising fears that it would be able to charge companies and customers different rates by controlling access to certain types of content.

But following a very large campaign led by internet companies, and the intervention of President Obama, the FCC changed its tune and moved toward much stricter legislation that brings internet access in line with traditional telephone laws, giving the FCC the ability to hear complaints and actively prevent telecom companies from cutting content deals.

As a result, the telecom companies are expected to vigorously fight the rules in court, and this lawsuit is just the first step.

Although the net neutrality rules have been hailed by many as a victory for the ordinary internet user, in reality it is more of a win for the new status quo of Google and Netflix over the previous giants of telco policy: AT&T, Verizon and the telco and cable companies' industry bodies. ®

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