Group With Members AT&T, Verizon Sues to Void Internet Rule

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A trade group with members including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. asked a U.S. court to throw out net neutrality rules backed by the Obama administration and opposed by Republican lawmakers.

USTelecom, which represents the largest U.S. telephone companies and other providers of high-speed Internet service, filed its action against the rules in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.

The agency’s rules bar Internet service providers led by Comcast Corp., AT&T and Verizon from interfering with Web traffic. They have been decried by cable and telephone companies as needlessly intrusive, and welcomed by Democrats and Internet companies as protecting online content from being blocked or slowed.

The FCC adopted the rules on a Democrat-led 3-2 vote in February after a U.S. court last year voided an earlier version, saying the agency lacked legal authority. The rules are to go into effect June 12 after being published Monday in the Federal Register.

The agency claimed legal authority based on utility regulations. Critics have said that gives the FCC too much power.

“USTelecom believes the FCC used the wrong approach,” the group’s president, Walter McCormick, said in an e-mail. The rules will slow innovation and investment, McCormick said.

‘Enforceable Protections’

Kim Hart, an FCC spokeswoman, said the agency is confident its rules “will be upheld by the courts, ensuring enforceable protections for consumers and innovators online.”

USTelecom and Alamo Broadband Inc. filed lawsuits last month and acknowledged that their complaints were filed quickly, and possibly too early, because of uncertainty about procedural deadlines.

USTelecom said today’s petition supplements the earlier lawsuit.

Michael Balmoris, a Washington-based spokesman for AT&T, didn’t comment on the lawsuit and said the company is a member of USTelecom. Ed McFadden, a Washington-based spokesman for Verizon, declined to comment.

The case is U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC, 15-1086, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington)

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