``any day now, a federal court is expected to weigh in on a case that could dramatically expand the scope of that deregulation -- potentially giving the industry an even bigger win and leaving the government less prepared to handle net neutrality complaints in the future, consumer groups say.


The litigation is significant as the FCC prepares to transfer more responsibility to the FTC for handling net neutrality complaints... If AT&T gets its way in the case, the FTC's ability to pursue misbehaving companies -- over net neutrality issues or otherwise -- may be sharply curtailed.

Thus far, the common carrier exemption has applied to a specific slice of the economy. But the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, FTC v. AT&T Mobility, could vastly expand the number of companies that qualify for the exemption. In an earlier decision in the lawsuit, a federal judge effectively said that any company that runs a telecom subsidiary is considered a common carrier. Previously, only the subsidiary would have been considered a common carrier -- not the larger corporate entity. The case is being reheard, and analysts say a decision could come at any time.


A vote to approve the [FCC's net neutrality plan], followed by a decision favorable to AT&T Mobility by the Ninth Circuit, would therefore create a 'regulatory gap' that would leave consumers utterly unprotected," Public Knowledge said in a letter this week asking the FCC to delay its vote.

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