United States Telecom Assoc. v. FCC, No. 15-1063 (D.C. Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Petitioners challenge the Commission's 2015 Open Internet Order, which reclassified broadband service as a telecommunications service, subject to common carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 201. The Commission determined that broadband service satisfies the statutory definition of a telecommunications service: “the offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public.” In accordance with Brand X, the Commission's conclusions about consumer perception find extensive support in the record and together justify the Commission’s decision to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. See National Cable & Telecommunications Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Services. The court rejected petitioners' numerous challenges to the Commission's decision to reclassify broadband, finding that none have merit. The court concluded that the Commission adequately explained why it reclassified broadband from an information service to a telecommunications service and its decision was not arbitrary and capricious. US Telecom never questions the Commission’s application of the statute’s test for common carriage, and US Telecom cites no case, nor is the court aware of one, holding that when the Commission invokes the statutory test for common carriage, it must also apply the NARUC test. See National Ass’n of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. FCC. Where the Commission concluded that it could regulate interconnection arrangements under Title II as a component of broadband service, the court rejected US Telecom's two challenges to the Commission's decision. The court rejected mobile petitioners’ arguments and find that the Commission’s reclassification of mobile broadband as a commercial mobile service is reasonable and supported by the record. In the Order, the Commission decided to forbear from numerous provisions of the Communications Act. The court rejected Full Service Network's procedural and substantive challenges to the Commission’s forbearance decision. The Commission promulgated five rules in the Order: rules banning (i) blocking, (ii) throttling, and (iii) paid prioritization; (iv) a General Conduct Rule; and (v) an enhanced transparency rule. The court rejected Alamo's challenge to the anti-paid-prioritization rule as beyond the Commission’s authority and rejected US Telecom's challenge to the General Conduct Rule as unconstitutionally vague. Having upheld the FCC’s reclassification of broadband service as common carriage, the court concluded that the First Amendment poses no bar to the rules and the court rejected Alamo and Berninger's challenges. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review.