Industry asks appeals court to reconsider broadband common carrier rules

30 July 2016 by Steve Blum
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Politics? Moi?

The next round of legal challenges to the newly upheld decision to treat broadband as a common carrier service have been filed. Alamo Broadband, AT&T, the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA), the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), TechFreedom and the U.S. Telecom Association (USTA) are asking the federal appeals court in Washington, DC to reconsider its earlier ruling and have all eleven of its active judges re-hear the case, instead of just the three that heard it earlier. It’s a standard request, and the next step on the path to an eventual appeal – by one side or the other – to the federal supreme court.

Links to all the petitions are below.

The core arguments haven’t changed since the first round of litigation. They boil down to the FCC got it wrong when it decided that 1. Internet access is a telecoms service and not an information service (more on that Monday), and 2. mobile broadband isn’t connected to the “public switched network” and is exempt from common carrier obligations (more on that tomorrow).

Oddly for what is supposed to be a dry, intellectual review of law and facts, the companies and lobbyists – AT&T and NCTA, in particular – lean heavily on political arguments. Both make a big deal out of what, by all measures, appeared to be direct interference in the FCC’s decision-making process by the Obama administration. AT&T also pitches vague claims of “bipartisan” support for industry positions in congress.

On the whole, there’s very little of substance in the petitions that hasn’t been extensively argued already. The requests amount to the first three judges got it wrong. Even though requests for full, “en banc” reviews are relatively common, very few are granted. The ones that are, though, tend to involve big issues with significant public policy implications.

If there’s one thing everyone on all sides of this issue agree on, it’s that this is a big, freaking deal.

Alamo Broadband
CTIA – mobile industry association
NCTA – cable industry association
USTA – landline industry association