FCC’s net neutrality rules about to be official, and invite lawsuits

The Federal Communications Commission is expected this week to submit its net neutrality rules to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The submission will restart a delayed process to make the rules official — and surely invite a slew of lawsuits from companies that want to overthrow the regulations.

It will probably still be months — September at the earliest — before the rules are finalized and published in the Federal Register, according to an official at the FCC.

So what’s taken so long?

A recap: The FCC passed its open Internet rules last December in a 3-to-2vote along party lines.

As part of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the rules have to be vetted by the OMB. Carriers told the FCC that the rules were too vague, so it is hard for them to know how much time it would take to implement the rules.

That’s triggered a back-and-forth between Internet service providers and the FCC.

So, now the rules will go to the OMB. After a 30-day comment period, the regulations will go back to the FCC and then finally get submitted to the Federal Register. That last point is the most significant.

If you are Verizon or Metro PCS and you still want to sue the FCC to overturn the rules, the regulations must first be submitted to the Federal Register before you file. That’s basically what those carriers found after a federal appeals court in April tossed out their lawsuits.

Now the big question is how those net neutrality rules will carry over to the merger review of AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile. The FCC’s regulations don’t apply strongly to wireless networks. Speculation is that the FCC would impose conditions on the merger to prevent AT&T from blocking other Web sites or prioritizing their own services on mobile devices.

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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