Telecoms file appeal against FCC reclassification rule

Several telecom and cable companies have filed a stay request with the FCC, trying to prevent the agency from reclassifying them as public utilities. The companies did not request that the FCC rescind its rules regarding the industry developing a two tier internet with some firms paying extra for their content to be streamed in a "fast lane" of connectivity.

Their reason for the stay: compliance would impose “crushing” costs on the providers, and would thus keep them from investing in things like upgrades to provide faster Net service.

As with the telephone voice system, public utility classification prevents Internet providers from giving preferential speeds or other special considerations to content companies that pay extra. As common carriers, Net providers would have to treat every content source the same.

The carriers’ strategy appears to be to prevent a general implementation of common carrier rules, while allowing a ban on preferential treatment for consumers. But there’s a question whether the agency has the authority to sustain such a ban, unless it reclassifies Net access as a common carrier service.

In late February, the FCC voted 3-to-2 to classify the Internet as a public utility. The move came after months of other proposals floated by Chairman Tom Wheeler that stopped short of full Net neutrality. The new regulations are set to begin June 12.

As soon as the FCC’s intention became clear in early February, AT&T and Verizon began indicating their intentions to sue.

The new filing, reported by Reuters, is expected to be rejected by the federal agency, further setting the stage for court action by the carriers.

The court cases arising from these new rules will take years to resolve, so it's not likely any of the rules will be implemented any time soon. And there's always the chance that a Republican Congress could pass legislation preventing the FCC from taking these steps.

Otherwise, as long as there's a Democratic majority in the FCC, the rules will go forward. The courts have already struck down FCC regs regarding net neutrality twice, but observers believe that the agency may have overcome the objections of lower courts and come up with a set of rules that could survive a legal challenge.

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