FCC, Telecoms Fight Over Net Neutrality Rules in Sixth Circuit

CINCINNATI/WASHINGTON—The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues to fight legal challenges to the agency's net neutrality rules brought by telecommunications giants and major internet service providers. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, an independent panel in the U.S. court system that manages similar lawsuits filed in several district courts, declared that the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, will be the venue for consolidating several cases brought by broadband industry groups.

The lawsuits challenge the net neutrality regulations classifying internet service and broadband as utilities under federal law. Law360.com reports that the panel consolidated eight separate cases from different jurisdictions throughout the United States. The lawsuits consolidated include National Consumer Law Center v. FCC et al. in the First Circuit; Texas Cable Association et al. v. FCC et al. in the Fifth Circuit; Ohio Telecom Association et al. v. FCC et al. in the Sixth Circuit; Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association v. FCC et al. also in the Sixth Circuit; Missouri Internet & Television Association v. FCC et al. in the Eighth Circuit; Media Alliance v. FCC et al. in the Ninth Circuit; Florida Internet & Television Association v. FCC et al. in the Eleventh Circuit; and Benton Institute for Broadband & Society v. FCC et al. in the District of Columbia Circuit. All stakeholders in the case are primarily major broadband companies.

Major broadband companies represented by these various groups include AT&T Fiber, Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom. All of these lawsuits allege that the FCC committed overreach in adopting net neutrality rules. However, the net neutrality rules have remained a focus of the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden, who promised the return of the rules.

Such lawsuits challenge broadband's Title II classification. Adult industry stakeholders and most digitally native platforms, like Netflix and Spotify, have lobbied for net neutrality to be reinstated after former President Donald Trump, a Republican, killed the regulation in the name of free markets. 

Adult industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition has advocated for net neutrality, and in 2017, adult performers appeared in a popular video for Funny Or Die making fun of the repeal effort, which was backed by the Trump White House and former FCC chair Ajit Pai. Biden FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel was the leading force behind the reinstatement efforts that resulted positively.

Net neutrality litigation is still ongoing and could have major implications on virtually everything that employs the internet.