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Digital Watch: ISPs & Telcos Ask Court to Block FCC’s Open Internet Order Immediately

There is already a pile of lawsuits challenging the FCC’s Open Internet Order waiting for attention from appeals courts. On Wednesday all of the major telecom and cable industry groups made a volley to jumpstart this process.

The U.S. Telecom Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the CTIA, AT&T, the American Cable Association, CenturyLink and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association joined together to file an emergency motion asking the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to block the Commission’s rules before they take effect on June 12. Another option they request is for the court to fast-track their suits.

The joint plaintiffs claim that member companies will experience irreversible “burdens and costs” if the court does not act on its request. They are specifically targeting the reclassification of internet service as a utility under Title II, the provision the industry has been most vocally opposed to.

This emergency request comes on the heels of the FCC denying a petition last Friday, from several of these groups–including AT&T, CenturyLink and the CTIA–to delay implementation of the Open Internet Order.

The FCC has, however, found some allies in the tech community willing to help defend the Open Internet rules. A coalition of companies called the Internet Freedom Business Alliance filed a motion with the DC Circuit Court on Tuesday, asking to intervene in the suits filed against the Commission. The Alliance includes companies like Tumblr, Etsy, Kickstarter and Vimeo.

At the same time, as Kif Leswing writes in the International Business Times, the Commission may soon lose a strong ally in net neutrality if the just-announced Verizon-AOL merger goes through. That’s because AOL has been a mostly strong supporter of net neutrality, going back at least a decade–with some lukewarm lapses during its Time Warner days–while Verizon led the fight against the FCC’s first round of Open Internet rules that led to the drafting of the most recent Order released this spring.

On Capitol Hill there’s a Republican-sponsored bill that would remove Title II classification, while still attempting to implement some semblance of network neutrality. Right now the bill hasn’t gained momentum, still needing more support from Democrats to be viable.

It seems unlikely that the bill will garner that support as long as the FCC’s Order is effect and in court. There is a chance that if the DC Circuit decides to stay Open Internet rules that some Democrats may be enticed to sign on in order to guarantee at least some net neutrality protections go into effect sooner, rather than later. Still, most Democrats may be willing to let the legal process play out, especially since the Title II provisions were drafted in direct response to the DC Circuit’s earlier decision, which said that Title II is, in fact, the most Constitutionally defensible approach to achieving net neutrality.

In case you’re wondering why I’m following the Open Internet Order when our focus is radio, it’s because online broadcasting is part of radio’s future. In particular, independent broadcasters are likely to be protected with network neutrality, ensuring that they’re streams and podcasts remain as accessible as those coming from much larger companies and broadcasters that might otherwise be able to pay for priority access to internet users. Internet radio and podcasting have sparked innovation in radio and audio programming, and I have an interest is seeing that kid of creativity and originality continue to be possible.


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