ISPs Urge Court to Block FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Soon

Net Neutrality

Rules scheduled to go into effect next month will call irreparable injury to their financial operations, ISPs said.

Ted Hearn ISPs Urge Court to Block FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Soon Photo by Justin Distel used with permission

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2024 – Communications companies subject to new federal internet service regulations want a court to block them from taking effect next month to avoid irreparable injury to their financial operations, the companies said in a filing Friday.

National and regional Internet Service Providers have challenged Net Neutrality rules adopted in April by the Federal Communications Commission under Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, saying the rules if allowed would exceed the agency’s legal authority and inflict unrecoverable losses.

In a brief Friday, the ISPs pointed to the FCC’s creation of a general conduct standard, which they said the agency “can enforce with massive forfeitures and private parties with damages actions.”

The FCC’s rules classified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, giving the agency a strong supervisory role over the firms that connect 91% of U.S. households to the Internet.

The FCC used its authority to waive certain rules to lessen the full brunt of Title II, noting that it would not regulate rates or require ISPs to open their networks to third-party ISPs.

In their brief, the ISPs claimed the FCC was downplaying the full weight of the rules.

“The FCC pretends that the [Net Neutrality Order] merely imposes uncontroversial open-Internet rules, emphasizing that it has forborne from some of Title II’s most eye-popping provisions,” the ISP said. “That the FCC needs to forbear from so much of Title II to make its interpretation work is a sign that the FCC has the wrong interpretation.”

The ISPs – companies such as Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon represented by national and state trade associations – also insisted a stay was needed because Congress did not expressly authorize the FCC’s action. 

The ISPs have asked the court to rule on the stay by July 15, one week before the rules take effect on July 22. That would leave a short period of time to seek a stay from the Supreme Court if a stay were denied below.

The FCC and ISPs have also disagreed as to the correct judicial venue. After the Sixth Circuit was chosen to hear the case by lottery, the FCC moved to transfer the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Washington located close to FCC headquarters.

The FCC claimed the D.C. Circuit should take the case because that court ruled in four previous Net Neutrality cases. ISPs have opposed the transfer, asserting the FCC was looking to gain an edge because the D.C. Circuit upheld the agency’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules.

The FCC’s case transfer request is pending before the Sixth Circuit.