FCC Expects To Be Sued Over Net Neutrality No Matter What It Does

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler testifying before the House on May 20, 2014.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler testifying before the House on May 20, 2014.

In 2010, the FCC enacted net neutrality rules aimed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up access to websites based on how much they pay — and the agency was sued by Verizon for overstepping its authority. Now that the FCC is reconsidering those rules to either make them weaker or possibly reclassify ISPs so that the agency can enforce neutrality. But no matter how it moves forward, the agency expects to be sued.

“Let’s make sure that we understand what is going on here,” said FCC Chair Tom Wheeler on Friday [via DSL Reports]. “The big dogs are going to sue regardless of what comes out.”

Several large ISPs, led by Verizon, have already stated they will file lawsuits if the FCC attempts to reclassify broadband, which is currently designated as a lightly regulated information service, as telecommunications infrastructure.

“Any time the commission has been moved to do something” about neutrality, said Wheeler, “one of the big dogs have gone to sue, so I guess we should be informed by history.”

The Chair initially drew criticism from neutrality supporters for his industry-friendly proposal that included limited allowances for so-called “fast lanes,” which would allow ISPs to charge companies like Netflix and Google more money for better access to end-users.

So far, Wheeler has only left open the possibility of reclassification, but just the mere notion that the Commission might eventually go this route has led to legal threats.

The issue was shoved into the spotlight recently when President Obama publicly stated his support for reclassification, resulting in a campaign of misinformation from certain lobbying groups attempting to politicize the issue.