The American Cable Association, a trade group representing hundreds of smaller and mid-sized independent service providers, is seeking to support the FCC in the agency’s court battle challenging its rollback of net neutrality rules.
On Friday, ACA filed a motion to intervene in the case with the U.S. Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit. The group told the court it believes it meets the requirements for intervention as many of its nearly 750 members provide broadband services and are thereby “directly affected” by the FCC’s declaratory ruling to reclassify ISPs as non-common carriers. ACA also pointed out that it regularly represents its members’ interests before regulatory agencies like the FCC.
The 9th Circuit court was selected in a lottery held by the court system when appeals are filed in several courts.
ACA said it took the legal action to “help defend the Federal Communications Commission’s ruling that restored light-tough regulation to providers of high-quality broadband facilities and infrastructure to millions of users in rural America.”
ACA asserts that common carrier-related regulatory burdens under the Title II classification of ISPs as part of the 2015 Open Internet Order made its smaller ISP members hesitant to invest their broadband networks and innovate new services. The group also said its members’ customers have received unrestricted access to lawful internet content on a “consistent basis.”
Both sides were contacted by ACA and neither intends to oppose ACA’s motion to intervene.
If ACA’s motion is approved, it will be able to file briefs in support of the FCC and its arguments when the case is heard.
Since the FCC decided to overturn net-neutrality rules last December in a politically divided vote, many groups and tech companies have challenged the rollback.
The decision reclassifies ISPs as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act, instead of a telecommunications service under Title II, subject to common carrier regulations. It also removes rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, steps some critics have asserted will allow broadband providers to block, slow down, or collect fees from rival services.
The order aims to transfer most oversight to the Federal Trade Commission. A transparency rule was adopted that requires ISPs to inform the FCC or post online to explain what policies they are using, and if they don’t live up to their word, the FTC can go after them for deceptive practices. The FTC or Department of Justice can also take action if they decide that policies undertaken by ISPs are anticompetitive.
While the decision also seeks to pre-empt states from imposing their own net neutrality rules, governors from several states, including New Jersey, Montana, and New York, have signed orders committing to do business only with ISPs that stand by net neutrality rules.
The FCC’s order overturning net neutrality rules was officially published in the Federal Register late last month, but it will not legally take effect until the White House Office of Management and Budget signs off on certain new requirements contained in the reversal and the FCC sets an effective date.
Filed Under: Industry regulations