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FCC Opposes ISP-Sought Title II Stay

WASHINGTON — In the category of absolutely no surprise, the Federal Communications Commission has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to deny petitions by cable and telco Internet-service providers to stay implementation of its reclassification of Internet access as a common carrier service until the court has heard their underlying challenge.

The FCC suggests the stay would "jeopardize the free flow of commerce and speech over the Internet." As with the Title II order, the request to deny the stay is based on the assertion that without the rules, ISPs are a threat to "interfere" with, "circumvent" and "impair" an open Internet.

“We remain confident the court will deny the request for a stay," FCC press secretary Kim Hart said. "Petitioners have not demonstrated that they are likely to prevail, and granting the stay motion would strip the FCC of the ability to protect consumers and innovators from harmful conduct by broadband providers.”

While ISPs have not asked the court to stay the bright-line rules, only the reclassification, application to interconnection and new general Internet conduct standard, the FCC said the court has already said the rules can't be applied "until and unless broadband was reclassified as a 'telecommunications service.' “

Thus, according to the FCC, the stay motion is "not what it seems." The commission also said preserving the interconnection and general conduct standard are "critical to ensuring that the bright-line rules could not be circumvented."

A stay would also hurt consumers, the FCC said, “leaving unprotected their ability to access Internet content, applications, and services of their choosing without broadband provider interference.” The resulting threat to Internet openness would seriously impair the ability of Americans to use the Internet “to conduct commerce, communicate, educate, entertain, and engage in the world around them,” the FCC said.

One thing the FCC did agree with was the ISPs’ request for expedited hearing of the underlying case if a stay is not granted.

"Although petitioners have not met the standard for a stay, we believe that the public would be served by the court’s expedited consideration of this case," the FCC said.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.