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ACA, NCTA Petition FCC To Stay Its Decision To Impose Utility Style Regulation On Broadband Internet Services

Filing Does Not Ask FCC To Stay Bright-Line Open Internet Rules

Today, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the American Cable Association (ACA) jointly filed a Petition for Stay Pending Judicial Review with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concerning its February 26, 2015 decision to change the classification of broadband Internet access service that will impose utility-style regulation on Internet service providers.  The stay petition was filed at the FCC, a procedural requirement before a similar request can be filed with the Court of Appeals.

In support of the stay filing, several Internet service providers submitted declarations detailing harms that will be caused by the FCC's decision to apply Title II common carrier regulation to providers of broadband Internet access service.  These harms will impose immediate and substantial burdens on both providers and consumers, including:

  • The Order subjects Internet providers to vague and onerous standards, creating significant uncertainty about the introduction of new services and exposing providers to costly litigation -- including class action lawsuits -- that will lead to rate regulation.
  • Reclassification subjects Internet providers to new obligations regarding customer information that will require purchasing new equipment, implementing new monitoring procedures and hiring and training new staff to comply.
  • Reclassification opens the door for pole owners to impose higher attachment rates, significantly raising the cost of deploying broadband.
  • Reclassification opens the door to state and local taxes and fees for ISPs and their customers.

NCTA and ACA's filing does not ask the Commission to stay the bright-line open Internet rules that were adopted as part of the FCC's Order and that cable ISPs have long followed in practice.  It instead requests immediate action to stay the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband under Title II as well as the vague and newly created "conduct" standard that will otherwise apply to provider conduct when the rules go into effect.

As the stay petition states:

"Petitioners do not seek a stay of the core open-internet rules that were the original aim of this proceeding, but ask only to preserve the status quo that the Commission itself has maintained for decades.  A brief delay in implementing the Order's abandonment of that approach, while a court adjudicates the validity of the reclassification and the unreasonable-interference standard, will cause the Commission or the public no prejudice.  To the contrary, a stay would provide stability and avoid costly uncertainty and confusion that would result if the Order takes effect but is later overturned."

NCTA President & CEO Michael Powell said, "While we continue to strongly support enforceable open Internet protections, we are deeply concerned that Title II regulation will immediately harm the industry and consumers, and retard efforts to deploy next generation networks throughout the country.  We further believe that the FCC's decision to shift from a national policy of light Internet regulation established by Congress to heavier regulation risks undercutting the dynamic innovation, entrepreneurial activity and consumer freedom that has been the hallmark of the Internet's success.  Litigation is a regrettable path, given it will likely take years to resolve and the final outcome is unknown.  For this reason, we continue to urge Congress to settle the matter through legislation, which can permanently codify open Internet protections, while avoiding the damaging consequences of an ill-suited regulatory model."

ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said, "ACA is filing this stay request in an effort to prevent the irreparable harm that awaits smaller ISPs as a result of Title II reclassification adopted by the FCC on February 26.  Seeking a stay is an extraordinary step for ACA and its members, but a necessary one, because the FCC declined to protect small ISPs, financially the most vulnerable companies, from being inundated in a sea of red tape that will cause them harm starting on day one that can't be mended after-the-fact.  We hope the FCC will give this stay request the serious attention that it deserves, and grant it to spare some of the country's smallest ISPs and their customers the trauma of complying with rules that are likely to be found invalid by the courts in the near future."

Companies and organizations that filed declarations include: Bagley, MN Public Utilities; Cable Communications of Willsboro, Inc.; Cox Communications, Inc.; Mediacom Communications Corporation; Midcontinent Communications; Mountain Zone Broadband, Inc.; National Cable & Telecommunications Association; Watson Cable Company/Suburban Cable Company; Windbreak Cable, Inc.

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NCTA is the principal trade association for the U.S. cable industry, representing cable operators serving more than 80 percent of the nation's cable television households and more than 200 cable program networks. The cable industry is the nation's largest broadband provider of high-speed Internet access, serving more than 54 million customers, after investing $230 billion since 1996 to build two-way interactive networks with fiber optic technology. Cable companies also provide state-of-the-art digital telephone service to more than 28 million American consumers.

 

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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