US Chamber sues to block FCC digital discrimination rule

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two Texas business groups sued the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday seeking to overturn the Biden administration's new digital discrimination rule.

The FCC in November adopted final rules to prevent digital discrimination in access to broadband services under a directive from Congress. Under the new rules, the FCC can investigate broadband access discrimination complaints and issue penalties to companies violating the rules.

The FCC said the rules are aimed at preventing "digital discrimination of access to broadband services based on income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin."

The U.S. Chamber, which filed the challenge in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the regulation is overly broad and covers "nearly every business practice related to providing access to broadband — including pricing."

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in October that the agency had "created a process that is aimed at finding solutions that work for all parties."

A spokesperson for Rosenworcel declined comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday.

Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr sharply criticized the rule in November when it was adopted, saying it gives "the federal government a roving mandate to micromanage nearly every aspect of how the internet functions."

Rosenworcel said the FCC will "accept genuine reasons of technical and economic feasibility as valid reasons why it may not be possible for equal access to a provider’s network."

The other Republican FCC commissioner, Nathan Simington, said in November that under the rule the commission will "run a permanent inquisition against the broadband industry, creating a climate of fear and uncertainty when we should instead be encouraging greater investment and innovation."

Since Democrats took control of the FCC in early October after being divided 2-2 since January 2021, Rosenworcel has moved quickly to set new rules.

The FCC voted in October to advance a proposal to reinstate landmark net-neutrality rules and assume new regulatory oversight of broadband internet rescinded under Republican former President Donald Trump.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)