FCC and Net-Neutrality Supporters Urge Court to Reject Industry’s Request for Delay

Filings warn that any hypothetical ‘costs’ to Internet service providers and phone companies are far outweighed by actual damages to consumers

The FCC joined backers of net neutrality on Friday in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to reject pleas from Internet-service providers and phone companies to delay its new regulations.

The FCC’s rules, due to take effect June 12, ban Internet service providers from blocking, throttling or using paid prioritization to give favored content a competitive edge for either wired or mobile connections. They also allow the FCC to examine complaints about the distribution procedures and pricing that ISPs charge Netflix and other content providers.

But in a joint filing by supporters of net neutrality, advocates argued that there is little merit to the industry’s warnings of “hypothetical future claims” from the FCC’s immediate implementation of net neutrality, and that any industry concerns are far outweighed by the potential harms of delay.

“Harms from a stay would dwarf the speculative injury petitioners claim,” said the filing by Etsy, Kickstarter, Meetup, Credo, Tumblr, Vonage, Comptel, Dish Network, Netflix and Level 3 Communications and consumer groups including Public Knowledge, Free Press, Color of Change, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“In a marketplace where Internet companies swim or sink at an unprecedented pace, the FCC’s ability to investigate complaints of behavior antithetical to an open Internet but otherwise not covered by the enumerated bright-line rules is crucial,” the filing said. “A stay of the would provide ISPs with a window of opportunity for harming rivals or extracting rent from a dynamic marketplace where competitors can go from charmed to bankrupt in the span of a few months.”

“Consumers and businesses today are being harmed by [Internet service providers] that continue to degrade their points of interconnection. This behavior threatens the very fabric of the Internet,” the groups added. “The harm from degradation of Internet connectivity extends well beyond the consumption of online video, and threatens all edge providers.”

The FCC also urged the court to reject any delay. “The open Internet is, after all, a powerful engine of economic growth,” the agency and the Justice Department said in its Friday filing. “Any stay would harm edge providers and consumers. The absence of open Internet rules and standards would chill the ‘edge economy’ [and] harm consumers, leaving unprotected their ability to access Internet content, applications, and services of their choosing without broad-band provider interference.”

Internet service providers and some mobile providers have challenged the FCC’s net neutrality action as an attempt to assert “unprecedented regulatory power over the Internet,” a “breathtaking” “about face.”

While the appeals court considers the challenge, US Telecom, the National Cable and Telecommunications Associations, the CTIA, AT&T, the American Cable Association, Centurylink and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association have also asked for a delay.

The groups contend they aren’t trying to prevent the FCC from enforcing net neutrality, but instead to prevent the agency from using its authority to regulate telephone lines to also regulate Internet connections.

In requesting the delay, all the business groups contended that the FCC’s action would create irreparable harm while a delay would have little impact.

CTIA and AT&T also argued that the FCC’s call for net neutrality for mobile connections should be put aside because the agency would be unlikely to successfully argue that its telephone authority was meant to apply to mobile wireless connections.

The FCC on Friday warned that the opponents are trying to hide their attempts to completely overturn net neutrality.

“Petitioners’ stay motion is not what it seems. It asks the Court to halt the application of Title II of the Communications Act to broadband, while allowing three bright-line rules to go into effect,” the FCC said. “But those bright-line rules are precisely the kind of regulation this Court held could not be applied until and unless broadband was reclassified as a ‘telecommunications service.'”