AT&T: If FCC Imposes Title II, We'll Sue

Says Congressman Needs Say In Momentous Decision

AT&T signaled Monday that if the FCC tries to reclassify Internet access as a Title II service, it will take it to court.

The President Monday advised the FCC to reclassify, saying that was the best way to prevent paid prioritization and keep the FCC open and free.

AT&T AT&T senior EVP Jim Cicconi suggested it would be the way to keep the rules tied up in court, and joined a growing chorus of industry stakeholders advising the FCC to defer to Congress any such "tectonic" shift, as NCTA put it.

“We feel the actions called for by the White House are inconsistent with decades of legal precedent as well as Congressional intent," said Cicconi in a statement. "Moreover, if the government were going to make such a momentous decision as regulating the entire Internet like a public utility, that decision is more properly made by the Congress and not by unelected regulators without any public record to support the change in regulation.  If the FCC puts such rules in place, we would expect to participate in a legal challenge to such action.”

Cicconi said Title II would be a big mistake that would harm the Internet

"It is a complete reversal of a bipartisan policy that has been in place since the Clinton Administration—namely, to treat Internet access as an information service subject to light-touch regulation. This classification of Internet service has been upheld by the Supreme Court and has enjoyed strong Congressional support for nearly a generation. Now, with one statement, the White House is telling the FCC to ignore this precedent and to instead impose on the entire Internet—from end to end— onerous government regulation designed in the 1930s for a Bell phone monopoly that no longer exists, not for a 21st century technology.  This will have a negative impact not only on investment and innovation, but also on our economy overall."

AT&T did not sue to block the FCC's 2010 rules, which represented a compromise proposal relying on Sec. 706 authority (only Verizon among the ISP’s took the FCC to court). The anti-blocking and anti-unreasonable discrimination portions of that order were thrown out by the court earlier this, year, but the FCC was also advised there was a Sec. 706 route to buttressing the rules, which FCC Chairman Tom wheeler proposed, to a hail of criticism from net neutrality activists and pushback now from the White House.