As predicted on CommLawBlog, effective date is November 20, 2011 . . . but don’t hold your breath

It’s official! The Commission’s Report and Order on the “Open Internet” – a/k/a the net neutrality order – has finally been published in the Federal Register. As we indicated in our post yesterday, the effective date of the new rules is November 20, 2011.

For a refresher course on just what the order includes, check out our posts here, here and here, for starters.

To paraphrase Churchill, Federal Register publication is neither the end nor even the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning. The scene will now shift to one or another U.S. Court of Appeals, although not necessarily right away: it’s possible that some parties may go back to the Commission for reconsideration of some aspects of the order. That latter scenario could complicate matters, as the courts might be inclined to hold off on considering challenges to the new rules if any administrative reconsideration might lead to changes in the rules. Courts in general prefer not to have to deal with moving targets, and can you blame them? Plus, the Commission would likely prefer to have the courts hold off while the Commission tries to smooth out any rough edges in the rules through the reconsideration process, so you can probably expect the FCC to try to discourage the courts from moving forward pending agency reconsideration if reconsideration is sought. But even one or more parties does petition for reconsideration, the judicial review might still proceed apace. You never know.

Another possible complication could arise if any party seeks a stay of the rules’ effectiveness pending judicial review. It is notoriously difficult to convince either the Commission or the courts to issue stays, but in a hotly contested proceeding of national importance like net neutrality, it might make the most sense to maintain the status quo until the legal issues have been resolved. While there are deadlines for filing for reconsideration (30 days from Federal Register publication of the rules — but heads up — in this case it’ll be 31, because the 30th day falls on a Sunday) and judicial review (60 days from publication), there is no technical deadline for seeking a stay. As a result, a stay request could be filed pretty much any time – although it would obviously make the most sense to file it far enough in advance of the effective date (November 20) to give the Commission or (more likely) the courts enough time to complete their review of the stay arguments and act before that date.

Stay tuned to CommLawBlog for updates on further developments.