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Telecom trade group sues FCC on net neutrality

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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/File

(Read caption) The signage for an AT&T store in New York. When the FCC approved net neutrality rules last month, lawsuits were considered a near-certainty.

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A pair of lawsuits filed Monday are the first to challenge new “net neutrality” rules designed to guarantee open and equal access to the Internet.

USTelecom, a trade group that represents Internet service providers such as Verizon, Frontier and AT&T, filed a petition in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., arguing that the rules set by the Federal Communications Commission are “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”

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And, in Texas, Alamo Broadband, a smaller Internet provider, filed in federal appeals court. The company’s petition looks familiar, using language that calls the FCC rules “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”

When the FCC approved net neutrality rules last month, lawsuits were considered a near-certainty. The new rules came after a federal appeals court threw out a more limited set of regulations that the FCC had approved in 2010. Verizon led the lawsuit that got those rules overturned.

Last month’s 3-2 vote in favor of  net neutrality gave the commission the ability to regulate Internet service as a public utility, as it has done historically for services like radio, telephone and cable.

Under the rules, the service providers who control access to the Web may not ban legal content, block legal traffic or create “fast lanes” that provide faster traffic to some websites than others.

Opponents have argued that there is no need for the commission to oversee a free Internet and that service providers have the right to offer faster service for higher pay if they want to do so in a free economy.

The two petitions filed Monday are light on details as to the exact legal complaints to come. They were filed, according to the telecoms, to beat a 10-day appeal window. The FCC published the full text of the net neutrality rules on its website on March 12.

An FCC spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that the commission has been served with two challenges to the open-internet rules.

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“We believe that the petitions for review … are premature and subject to dismissal,” the spokesperson said via email.

Doug Gross is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter@doug_gross and on Google+.

[Editor's note: The headline to an earlier version conveyed that the telecoms themselves, and not the trade group representing the telecoms, filed the suit.]


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