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USTelecom Jointly Seeks FCC Partial Stay of Open Internet


Bright-Line Rules Not Part of Request


WASHINGTON, DC – USTelecom, AT&T, CenturyLink, CTIA-the Wireless Association® and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association today asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stay its action placing broadband Internet access service under Title II public utility regulation. The stay request does not affect the commission’s rules that prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. The petitioners want the commission to review the parts of its recent order that would subject broadband providers to Title II common carrier obligations, and the newly created Internet conduct standard that would allow the FCC to decide what new services carriers could offer.

The commission’s sweeping assertion of control over the Internet creates “enormous uncertainty” as to whether broadband providers can continue offering services that benefit consumers, the petition said. These concerns are outlined in concrete terms in filings accompanying the stay petition from large and small companies detailing how the order would impose new costs and substantially harm their operations.

Smaller companies operating in rural areas said the new obligations would subject them to legal challenges that will be costly to address, arising from unclear definitions around what constitutes “just and reasonable charges.” The order’s lack of specificity coupled with the prospect of significant penalties would chill decisions for future investment in new products and business plans to the detriment of consumers. Other companies fear the order could impede innovative marketing plans that are popular with consumers today because the offerings will now be viewed through the rigid common-carrier lens of Title II regulation.

In addition, the order claims FCC control over peering agreements involving broadband Internet access providers, inserting the FCC into Internet peering for the first time.  This claim of control raises concerns that this area of the Internet would be subject to governmental delays and second guessing, harming investment and innovation. Since the order was adopted, some companies have already threatened to initiate FCC enforcement actions to achieve peering arrangements favorable to them, no matter what the balance of traffic is between providers. In the past, agreements were negotiated party-to-party without any government involvement.

USTelecom is being represented in this case by noted Supreme Court practitioner Kathleen M. Sullivan of Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School and an expert in constitutional law.

The following statement is from USTelecom President Walter McCormick:

“USTelecom and its broadband provider partners urge the FCC to stay the provisions of the open Internet order that would directly impact consumers, specifically, imposition of common carrier obligations that will increase costs and chill development of new and innovative services. We are not seeking to stay the bright-line rules prohibiting blocking, throttling or paid prioritization, but as we have previously said, the commission’s reclassification of Internet access was the wrong approach to implementing these standards. We seek a partial stay of the order because the commission’s departure from established law threatens consumers and members of our industry with immediate, irreparable harm. Staying the order for a short period under the terms outlined in the petition will pose no risk to the public, and would promote stability and predictability in the broadband marketplace.”

The following statement is from Kathleen M. Sullivan:

“Since the passage of the 1996 Act, the FCC has consistently held that Internet access service is an information service, and, in the Brand X case, all nine Supreme Court justices agreed that broadband Internet access service is an ‘information service.’ To now classify broadband Internet access service in its entirety as a telecommunications service and not an information service, as the FCC did in the open Internet order, goes beyond the scope of whatever ambiguity the statute may contain and thus will be overturned as beyond the FCC’s authority.”

About USTelecom

USTelecom is the nation’s leading trade association representing broadband service providers and suppliers. Its diverse member base ranges from large publicly traded communications corporations to small companies and cooperatives – all providing advanced communications services to markets both urban and rural.