Monday’s Federal Register publication of the FCC’s February 26 order reclassifying broadband ISPs as telecommunications providers pursuant to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act triggered a flurry of activity this week at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where various parties submitted petitions for review of the revised net neutrality rules. As petitioners filed their motions with the court, Republicans in the House took steps to nullify the FCC’s order before it goes into effect, with the introduction of a resolution of disapproval pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
Federal Register publication of the FCC’s Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling in the Open Internet proceeding opens a 60-day window for the filing of appeals. The same 60-day deadline (June 12) also serves as the effective date of the new rules. Within hours of Federal Register publication, USTelecom—which had previously filed a “protective” petition with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the event the FCC’s declaratory ruling were deemed to be final within ten days of FCC release on March 12—again asked the D.C. Circuit to overturn the rules. Similar legal challenges were submitted on the same day by AT&T, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the American Cable Association, and wireless association CTIA.
While these companies and others have voiced support for the FCC’s net neutrality goals, the documents filed with the D.C. Circuit target the FCC’s decision to adopt a Title II regulatory track for fixed and wireless broadband services. Emphasizing, “our appeal is not focused on challenging the [open Internet] objectives” articulated by the FCC and by President Obama, USTelecom President Walter McCormack told reporters that his company’s petition challenges the “shift backward to common carrier regulation after more than a decade of significantly expanded broadband access . . . under light-touch regulation.”
Meanwhile, the CRA Resolution of Disapproval introduced Monday by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and co-sponsored by 13 House Republicans provides a fast-track, 60-day process for adoption that removes many of the procedural impediments that minority members can place in the path of pending legislation. Although Collins argued that the resolution is needed to avoid “a grave mistake that threatens to reverse our country’s technological progress,” public interest groups countered that the resolution ignores the will of millions of Americans who have endorsed the FCC’s efforts. Charging that the resolution is “misguided politically and substantially,” Public Knowledge Vice President Chris Lewis warned lawmakers that repeal of the Title II order “would prevent the FCC from enforcing any version of net neutrality in the future.” President Obama—a strong supporter of the FCC’s order—holds the power to veto such resolutions, and a two-thirds supermajority vote of both chambers of Congress would be required to override a veto.