Computer Companies Make Their Case for Reversing Net Reg Rollback

Computer companies, writers and software producers are united in their view of what will keep the internet open, or at least those represented by major associations and unions.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) has joined the Internet Association (IA), the Entertainment Software Association and the Writers Guild of America West to make their case in court for restoring the FCC rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, and the classification of ISPs as Title II telecoms subject to some common carrier regulations.

That came in intervenor briefs (due Aug. 27) filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is hearing the appeal of the network neutrality reg rollback under FCC chair Ajit Pai. The case involves various petitioners seeking to rollback the reg rollback, but goes under the name of Mozilla Corp. et al v. the FCC and the United States of America.

Related: Mozilla Says FCC Broke Law

They argue that the FCC under Pai "abdicated" its legal authority. The rollback included deeding primary net neutrality oversight to the Federal Trade Commission under its unfair and deceptive practices authority. The previous FCC's classification of ISPs under Title II had put ISPs out of the FTC's reach since they are prohibited from regulating common carriers.

They said the FCC acted arbitrarily and capriciously (which violates the Administrative Procedures Act) by 1) "incorrectly asserting that brightline rules aren't necessary to protect the open internet; that 2) "the FCC failed to assess the costs and benefits of stripping net neutrality protections from the books;" and 3) "claiming to have no legal authority to adopt net neutrality protections," which they say "flies in the face of previous rulings."

Related: Pai Says Net Neutrality Gloom and Doom Predictions Were Baseless

“Making sure that ISPs don’t block or throttle content helps preserve free speech, access to information--and democracy," they told the court. "The FCC itself acknowledges that most internet users and businesses have two or fewer choices of broadband internet providers. So the FCCs acknowledge the lack of competition, but because the FCC got rid of its rules, there is nothing preventing the biggest internet providers from throttling or blocking content online. This violates principles that have been at the cornerstone of our democracy and thriving business climate for decades, and the court and policymakers should not allow this to stand.”

“It’s indisputable that net neutrality protections help consumers, promote innovation, and foster competition online,” said IA president Michael Beckerman of the brief. “Strong net neutrality protections ensure that consumers, not ISPs decide what websites and apps you can use. Chairman Pai’s 2017 rules took these protections away from consumers, and IA will continue our fight to restore them in every available venue.”

“It’s ironic—but not unexpected—that the companies which have become the internet’s most powerful gatekeepers are claiming to fight for a free and open internet that exempts them from the very rules for which they are advocating," said Jonathan Spalter, president of USTelecom, which represents major ISPs that suuport the net reg rollback. "It’s time for Congress to pass legislation that provides uniform consumer protections that apply to all companies in the internet ecosystem, and will truly preserve and protect net neutrality principles for all," he 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.