MAIN sues FCC over open Internet rules

September 30, 2011 by Wally Bowen

The Mountain Area Informational Network (MAIN) has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to overturn open Internet rules the agency approved in December, 2010.

MAIN, a non-profit Internet service provider based in Asheville, N.C., filed a petition for review on Sept. 26 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.

The rules stem from an FCC order entitled “Preserving the Open Internet” and took effect Sept. 23 upon publication in the Federal Register. The rules aim to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition and free expression. Affected parties have 10 days after the rules’ publication to seek a court review.

MAIN contends that the rules are flawed, unenforceable, and fail to achieve the goals of preserving Internet freedoms, said Wally Bowen, MAIN’s founder and executive director.

MAIN’s petition asks the federal court to overturn the FCC order and to direct the agency to revisit its rulemaking. “Our goal is to have the FCC strengthen these open Internet rules to make them meaningful and enforceable in order to preserve the Internet as an open platform for grassroots innovation,” said Bowen.

“The original genius of the Internet is that control resided with end-users, but deregulation eight years ago shifted control to network owners. These rules attempt to mitigate this power-shift, but they are flawed,” Bowen said.

In its petition, MAIN argues that the FCC’s rules treat wireless and landline networks differently, giving wireless network-owners more power to dictate what users can do on the Internet.

“Granting more power to wireless network-owners reduces mobile access to a second-class service, discriminates against low-income users who rely on mobile devices, and disadvantages rural areas where wireless is often the only broadband access available,” said Bowen.

He said the lawsuit could help raise public awareness of the need for enforceable rules-of-the-road to preserve the freedoms of grassroots innovation and expression that have made the Internet a revolutionary technology.

Founded in 1995, MAIN is one of the nation’s oldest nonprofit Internet service providers. In its lawsuit, MAIN is represented by the Media Access Project, a public interest law firm based in Washington D.C. END

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September 18, 2011 by onair