Opponents of the U.S. Federal Communication Commission's Open Internet Order have failed to win a stay on the order because they did not show they would be "irreparably harmed" by the agency's new stance on Net neutrality, the FCC ruled late last week. Two groups of opponents had filed separate petitions seeking such a stay earlier this month.
The groups oppose the FCC's February reclassification of broadband providers as Title II "common carriers" that are subject to regulations in the public interest to ensure their services do not discriminate against any class of customers. Opponents say that classification, rather than the previously applied "information service" standard, would subject them to "onerous" and costly responsibilities.
Two petitions, each seeking a stay on the FCC's order, were filed on May 1. One petition was filed by the U.S. Telecom Association, the CTIA Wireless Association, AT&T, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association and CenturyLink, while the other was filed by the American Cable Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
'Uniquely Dependent on Telecommunications Networks'
Upon filing the petition, Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO of the CTIA acknowledged in a blog post that "stays are not common." However, she added, "the uncertainty and serious ramifications stemming from the FCC's order requires CTIA to take every procedural step available to limit the impact of the FCC's overreach."
In spelling out their decision to deny the stay petitions, the chiefs of the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau said that a stay was an "extraordinary remedy" that would have required the petitioners to demonstrate that their cases were likely to prevail on the merits; they would suffer irreparable harm; a stay would not harm other parties; and a stay was in the public interest.
The FCC chiefs concluded the petitioning organizations weren't able to make the case for any of those concerns. "Consumers are uniquely dependent on telecommunications networks to communicate some of their most personal information; therefore, staying the reclassification of BIAS (broadband Internet access service) would not favor the public interest," they said.
'Sensible Course of Action'
We reached out to Free Press, one of several pro-Net neutrality organizations that had lobbied hard for the FCC's reclassification, to get that group's response to the agency's latest decision on the stay petitions.
Free Press Policy Counsel Lauren Wilson told us that "the FCC took the only sensible course of action when it denied these meritless requests to delay the implementation of the agency's common-sense open Internet framework."
She added that open Internet opponents were unable to demonstrate irreparable harm from the FCC's order "because there aren't any." Wilson noted, for example, that the issue of Title II reclassification barely came up in recent cable and phone company quarterly investor calls.
With several challenges already under way in the courts, a final verdict on the staying power of the FCC's order is likely several years away. However, supporters say they are confident the order will stand, especially in light of its overwhelming public support. A record four million-plus members of the public submitted comments -- a large number in favor -- to the FCC ahead of the agency's February decision.
Posted: 2015-05-11 @ 2:53pm PT
The key discussion has evolved from a position of technology. Originally as telephony was delivered via circuit switched connections, it has literally evolved to become Internet Protocol (IP) based digital transport and deliver to homes and businesses. Differentiating voice from data from other media types within digital IP, must be defined in accordance to the lowest common denominator, i.e. voice. The FCC has this one right.