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Appellate challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s open Internet regulations are piling up days after the agency’s release of its final rule on the matter. The FCC’s Sept. 23 publication of a final rule in the Federal Register opened the floodgates for court challenges. The hotly contested rule on open Internet, which is sometimes referred to as “ net neutrality,” details standards for Internet-access providers’ management of information in their networks. A media advocacy group called Free Press filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on Sept. 28. Non-profit law firm and advocacy organization Media Access Project also recently filed three petitions on behalf of various clients in the federal appellate courts in the 2nd, 4th and 9th Circuits. The final rule, which kicks in Nov. 20, generally requires fixed and mobile broadband providers to disclose their network management practices, performance characteristics and service terms. They’re also barred from blocking legal content, services and devices and from unreasonably discriminating when transmitting network traffic. The appeals will eventually be assigned to one federal appellate court by lottery. The Free Press petition stated that the organization “seeks review on the grounds that this decision violates the Communications Act of 1934, or other statutes, and is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise contrary to law.” Free Press policy director Matt Wood said the protections for wireless technology are much weaker than for wired technology like cable modem or DSL. The FCC’s final rule will allow Internet service providers to block applications for wireless devices and discriminate in its service provision, by offering some customers faster connectivity, Wood said. “We believe every website should be on more or less equal footing on the Internet,” Wood said. In April, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out two cases filed by Verizon Communications and MetroPCS Communications, which challenged the FCC’s authority to issue the rules. The court found that the companies’ suits were untimely because they predated Federal Register publication of a final rule. There will be scores if not hundreds of parties seeking to challenge the FCC on the issue, predicted Glenn Manishin, a Washington partner at Philadelphia’s Duane Morris whose practice includes telecommunications and technology policy work. Manishin is not involved in the petitions. “The challenge for the court will be deciding how many briefs it wants to receive,” Manishin said. Manishin also said network neutrality will spawn a wide range of legal issues for companies that provide Internet access. “Any business that depends upon the Internet, or provides Internet services, particularly with regard to digital content, is going to be affected one way or another,” Manishin said. FCC spokesman David Fisk said the agency declined to comment. Sheri Qualters can be contacted at [email protected].

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