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‘Obamanet’ Faces First Legal Challenges

Just one month after the Federal Communications Commission voted to take regulatory control over the Internet, the telecom industry filed the first legal challenges to the ruling.

According to US News, “Two separate lawsuits, filed on Monday by USTelecom and Alamo Broadband, have challenged the net neutrality rules recently passed by the Federal Communications Commission, which aim to protect competition online.” (RELATED: FCC Votes in Favor of Net Neutrality)

The lawsuits allege that the FCC exceeded its authority with its “arbitrary and capricious” decision to regulate the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act, saying the new rules do not differ materially from previous efforts to implement net neutrality that were struck down by the courts.

“We do not believe the Federal Communications Commission’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable,” USTelecom president Walter McCormick said in a statement. (RELATED: New Net Rules Could be ‘Strike Three for the FCC’)

Conversely, Robert Cooper, a partner at the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, told US News that the lawsuits will “ultimately be unavailing and the FCC will prevail in court.”

“USTelecom’s members and Alamo’s customers would be better served if the companies devoted their efforts and resources to providing the best broadband service they can, rather than litigating against the FCC,” he added.

Jon Banks, senior vice president of USTelecom, disagreed with that assessment in a statement of his own, arguing that the rules would reverse “a decade of amazing innovation and investment under the FCC’s previous light-touch approach.” (RELATED: Title II Will Kill Internet Investment, Critics Claim)

USTelecom claims it filed its lawsuit “out of an abundance of caution,” because it is unclear whether the 10-day window for challenging an FCC order begins on the date that the order is issued—in which case the deadline would have been Monday—or on the date the rules are published in the Federal Register.

In the event that the rules cannot be challenged until they are published, USTelecom and Alamo Broadband have indicated that they will re-file their suits.

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