The list of potential plaintiffs lining up against the Federal Communications Commission keeps getting longer and longer.
On Tuesday, a top lobbyist representing small and rural cable companies said his group is considering litigation to overturn the FCC's proposed net neutrality rules, which aim to stop Internet providers from blocking or slowing Web traffic.
"We believe the FCC must do the proper regulatory flexibility analysis to determine the impact of its regulations on small businesses," said Matthew Polka, president and chief executive of the American Cable Association, in an interview. "We believe the FCC has not done this to date."
The association hasn't arrived at a final decision. But smaller Internet providers may be disproportionately affected by the strong rules currently being debated at the FCC, some industry advocates argue.
Many — including the chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler — believe that the agency's draft net neutrality rules will be challenged by the broadband industry in court. That conviction is now backed by strong suggestions from lobbyists and corporate executives about the inevitability of a lawsuit. Last week, the head of the cable industry's largest trade group said it was "highly likely" that his organization would join a lawsuit designed to block the FCC. And AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson warned Friday on CNBC that "there will be litigation" on net neutrality.
In addition, Stephenson floated the idea of a stay that would prevent the FCC from enforcing its rules if and when they're approved by the full commission on Feb. 26. Analysts say that if a judge were to put a hold on the rules, it would be taken as a sign that the regulations are in trouble. And that would have implications for a congressional bill addressing net neutrality.
"Congressional Democrats will worry that the FCC’s rules are now in peril and will be more willing to support compromise legislation," wrote Guggenheim Securities analyst Paul Gallant in a research note Friday.