Cable Companies Sue the FCC Over ‘Unreasonable’ Digital Discrimination Rules





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Cable companies are challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s rules to prevent digital discrimination.

NCTA – The Internet and Television Association and ACA Connects, two organizations that represent hundreds of broadband providers, filed a lawsuit against the agency last week.

“In adopting its recent order, the FCC chose to ignore the limits on its statutory authority and the virtues of a more focused rule addressing intentional disparities in deployment of internet service. Instead, the FCC adopted a regime of almost limitless scope that is unreasonable and unworkable, and ultimately will harm our effort to deliver ubiquitous access to broadband service,” Brian Dietz, NCTA’s senior vice president of strategic communications, said in a statement to Cord Cutters News.

The lawsuit comes after the FCC voted to approve rules to prevent digital discrimination of broadband access that unfairly excluded people by income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin. Poorer communities and communities of color in particular often see fewer investments from internet service providers.

The rules go beyond instances of intentional discrimination and include a “disparate impact” standard. This means even unintentional instances of digital discrimination could be sanctioned.

This is the point cable companies pushed back on — the broad terminology could lead to heavy-handed punishments and rate regulation.

“These rules are strong,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said during a meeting in November. “When you consider Congress explicitly directed us to ‘prevent’ and ‘eliminate’ digital discrimination of access, they had better be. But I would also argue that they are fair and reasonable.” 

NCTA’s lawsuit is the second one the FCC has faced over the digital discrimination order. Last month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two Texas business groups also claimed the rules were too broad and could lead to price benchmarks.

“The FCC’s action will also make it more difficult to deploy broadband service to all Americans and communities due to increased compliance costs and stifled private sector investment,” the lawsuit said.

The FCC wasn’t immediately available for further comment.

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