NCTA, ACA battle with 34 attorneys general over state inquiries into slow ISP speeds

The lobbying groups said they want a national standard instead of the “patchwork of inconsistent requirements” that exist state by state. 

Top telecom lobbying groups NCTA, USTelecom and ACA are pushing the FCC to make it harder for state officials to investigate and sue ISPs over faulty speed claims, an effort being resisted by a bipartisan collection of 34 state attorneys general. 

The battle was eloquently detailed yesterday in an Ars Technica news feature, which outlined the drama that has unfolded since the New York State Attorney General filed suit against Charter Communications in February. 

In mid-May, NCTA and USTelecom petitioned the FCC for a declaratory ruling that would help high-speed internet providers defend themselves from state inquiries and prosecution.

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RELATED: Charter seeks to have New York Attorney General suit moved to federal court, tossed

The trade groups want the agency to declare that operators can advertise speeds “up to” a certain threshold of megabits per second as long as the providers meet their disclosure requirements under federal net neutrality laws—that is, the portion of the 2010 rules that weren’t stripped away when Verizon successfully sued the FCC in 2014. 

The lobbying groups said they want a national standard instead of the “patchwork of inconsistent requirements” that exist state by state. 

“We and USTelecom did file a petition regarding broadband speed tests which I think the Ars story does link to. We have no comment otherwise,” said NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz in a terse email response to FierceCable today. 

For its part, the American Cable Association chimed in Friday with its own FCC filing (PDF), asking the agency to approve the petition. 

"The FCC should make clear that smaller broadband internet service providers (ISPs) that act in accordance with the FCC's broadband speed measurement and disclosure requirements are following controlling federal law. Smaller ISPs need the certainty that reliance on federal rules in consumer-facing statements is a defense to false advertising claims," said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka, in a statement. 

Meanwhile, in their own filing, a diverse group of 34 attorneys general, spanning the political dial from Arkansas and Texas to New York and Connecticut, urged the FCC to resist the NCTA and USTelecom petition, labeling it  "nothing more than the industry’s effort to shield itself from state law enforcement.”

"As the chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we understand the vital importance of protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices—including those of broadband providers," the attorneys general said in their filing. "Like others providing goods and services to consumers in our states, providers of broadband Internet service must be truthful in their advertisements."

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