The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The real net neutrality lawsuits are finally here

Matthew Polka, president and chief executive officer of the American Cable Association, listens during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 8, 2014. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Top lobbyists for the nation's Internet providers filed lawsuits Tuesday against the government's new net neutrality rules.

The lawsuits have been gestating for weeks. They take aim at what the National Cable and Telecommunications Association calls in its suit an "arbitrary, capricious and … abuse of discretion" on the part of the Federal Communications Commission.

The court petitions filed Tuesday in Washington also include challenges from CTIA, the wireless industry's top trade group; the American Cable Association, which represents small and independent cable companies; and AT&T. Together with a suit from USTelecom, the trade group for America's largest telecommunications firms, that makes five.

The FCC's net neutrality rules, which became fair game for lawsuits Monday, seek to bar Internet providers from unfairly speeding up, slowing down or blocking some Web sites over others in an effort to maintain a level playing field for Web companies. They amount to the strongest rules ever applied to Internet providers, an industry that a federal court said last year had the ability and the incentive to restrict consumers' Internet traffic online.

But Internet providers hate the way the FCC implemented its rules — by regulating them using the same legal tool that was originally written for legacy phone companies.

CTIA chief executive Meredith Attwell Baker slammed the rules in a statement Tuesday, calling it a "command-and-control regulatory regime" that will slow down the pace of innovation.

USTelecom and a small, Texas-based Internet provider tried filing appeals last month against the rules. But because the FCC's regulations hadn't been published in the Federal Register at that point, many viewed those suits as premature. Tuesday's filings kick off the real court fight against the FCC.

We knew this step was coming inevitably. Now that it's here, we've officially opened up the next chapter in the net neutrality fight. Read the petitions for yourself below: