CenturyLink, AT&T join USTelecom in asking for stay on net neutrality order

AT&T (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) have joined USTelecom and the CTIA trade associations in firing the latest salvo at net neutrality orders by asking the FCC to stay its action of placing broadband Internet access services under Title II regulation.

The service providers and industry associations said that request does not affect the regulator's rules that prevent ISPs from blocking or throttling a user's Internet connection when accessing legal content and that prevent content owners from paying for access to a faster service lane.

"USTelecom and its broadband provider partners urge the FCC to stay the provisions of the open Internet order that would directly impact consumers, specifically, imposition of common carrier obligations that will increase costs and chill development of new and innovative services," said Walter McCormick, president of USTelecom, in a statement. "We are not seeking to stay the bright-line rules prohibiting blocking, throttling or paid prioritization, but as we have previously said, the commission's reclassification of Internet access was the wrong approach to implementing these standards."

Each of the petitioners has asked the FCC to review parts of its net neutrality order that would subject broadband providers to Title II common carrier obligations and the newly created Internet conduct standard that would allow the FCC to decide what new services carriers could offer.

The commission's sweeping assertion of control over the Internet creates "enormous uncertainty" as to whether broadband providers can continue offering services that benefit consumers, the petition said.

Besides the large service providers, the petitioners say that the order could potentially burden smaller telcos and cable operators in rural areas with expensive legal challenges that could come about due to opaque definitions of "just and reasonable charges." Further, the petitioners charge that the order's lack of clarity and the penalties could put a damper on future investment on new network rollouts and products.

Another issue of concern by the petitioners is the FCC's move to increase its oversight over peering agreements between broadband providers. Since the order was adopted, some companies, including Level 3 and Cogent, have already threatened to initiate FCC enforcement actions to achieve peering arrangements favorable to them. Prior to the new rules, service providers negotiated without any government involvement.

What's driven controversy in recent years between last mile providers like Verizon and Level 3 are claims that they were deliberately slowing down traffic from content providers like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX). Earlier this month, Level 3 and Verizon signed an interconnection agreement that could potentially resolve acrimony between Level 3 and the carrier over the quality of network interconnections.

This latest action by this group comes after all four of these petitioners filed separate lawsuits against the FCC over the net neutrality order. Although fellow telco Verizon has decided to work with industry groups such as the CTIA and USTelecom to handle the heavy legal lifting, AT&T and CenturyLink filed separate lawsuits against the FCC over the net neutrality rules.

For more:
- see the release

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