Net neutrality rules effective today as federal court denies AT&T, CenturyLink request for stay

The FCC's net neutrality rules will go into effect today. The rules ban blocking, throttling and prevent companies from paying to get access to fast lanes to deliver content.

AT&T, CenturyLink and other telecom groups requested a stay of the FCC's new net neutrality rules but those requests were not granted by a D.C. Federal Circuit Court.

Although the new rules are not unanimously supported by all of the FCC commissioners, the regulator said the rules will give service providers "certainty and economic incentive" to build fast and competitive broadband networks.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement that the ruling provides a huge victory for Internet consumers and innovators.

"Starting Friday, there will be a referee on the field to keep the Internet fast, fair and open. Blocking, throttling, pay-for-priority fast lanes and other efforts to come between consumers and the Internet are now things of the past," Wheeler said in a statement. "The rules also give broadband providers the certainty and economic incentive to build fast and competitive broadband networks."

While service providers support the FCC's tenets on blocking and paid prioritization, the reclassification of Internet providers under Title II of the Communications Act has caused heartburn for carriers like AT&T and CenturyLink and industry groups like TIA and US Telecom. Title II would regulate broadband providers as a utility, a provision critics say will create "enormous uncertainty" as to whether Internet service providers (ISPs) can continue offering services that benefit consumers.

Industry groups like the Telecommunications Industry Association, who joins USTelecom and others in protest against the new net neutrality rules, said they are not giving up on getting the rules overturned. TIA plans to file an amicus brief with the court on why the FCC's actions were unlawful.

"While it is disappointing that the court declined to stay the FCC's implementation of its net neutrality order, it is important to recognize that this is just one battle in the industry's fight," said Scott Belcher, CEO of TIA in a statement. "Under light regulatory rules, the Internet has produced tremendous value for consumers and delivered remarkable innovation and economic growth for our country. There is no good reason to now have the Internet governed under antiquated and onerous regulations that will harm investment and create uncertainty for the communications industry and economy. "

Belcher added that "we continue to believe that the Court will ultimately invalidate these rules."

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai echoed that tone in a statement saying that while "this development was not unexpected," the court will be able to more thoroughly review the new order and will see its shortcomings.

"The bar for granting any stay is quite high, and I am pleased that the court did not suggest that the rules are in fact legally valid," Pai said in a statement. "I welcome the court's coming examination of the FCC's 313-page order, during which it will have an opportunity to address the order's serious procedural and substantive flaws."

However, Chip Pickering, CEO of COMPTEL and a former Republican member of Congress from Mississippi who supports the Open Internet rules, said the stay request was a delay tactic by internet gatekeepers seeking to control, block and assign new fees for internet access.

In April, AT&T, CenturyLink and the USTelecom Association filed separate lawsuits against the FCC over the net neutrality rules. Their suits focused on challenging the FCC's net neutrality order on the grounds that it is arbitrary, capricious and a violation of federal law.

Later, both carriers joined USTelecom and the CTIA trade associations in asking the FCC to stay its action of placing broadband Internet access services under Title II regulation.

In delivering its decision, the Court said the net neutrality lawsuit should be heard in an expedited fashion, meaning that oral arguments could possibly come in December, according to a Washington Post report.

For more:
- Washington Post has this article
- LA Times has this article
- see Chairman Wheeler's statement

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