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FCC asks appeals court to postpone net neutrality challenge due to shutdown

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission asked a federal appeals court to postpone oral arguments in a challenge the court is considering to the FCC order that repealed net neutrality rules.

Oral arguments for a challenge to the order led by browser developer Mozilla Corp. are currently scheduled for Feb. 1 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mozilla and other internet advocacy organizations challenging the order have argued that the order should be vacated because it is a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal statute that governs how federal agencies create regulations.

In its Jan. 15 filing, the FCC said that its attorneys and those at the U.S. Department of Justice working on relevant litigation need more time to prepare for the arguments as a result of the current government shutdown.

"Due to the recent lapse in funding for the FCC and the relevant component of the Department of Justice, the Commission believes that, in an abundance of caution, it should move for an extension to ensure that attorneys may fully prepare for argument consistent with the Antideficiency Act," wrote the FCC.

The Antideficiency Act states that the federal government cannot accept voluntary services for government work except for "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."

However, it appears that the court intends to hold oral arguments according to its original schedule. A recent announcement on the website for the D.C. Circuit's website states that "oral arguments on the calendar for the month of January and February will go on as scheduled."

Currently, federal courts have enough funds to remain operating through Jan. 25. This date is an extension of operations for the federal courts, which had previously said they would run out of funds on Jan. 18. The extension is attributable to "aggressive efforts to reduce expenditures," according to a Jan. 16 news release from the U.S. Courts.

While the federal court system has been diligent about finding ways to preserve funds and extend operations in January, it warns in its news release that it cannot keep extending operations much longer.

"The Judiciary is continuing these cost-cutting efforts, in the hopes of sustaining operations past Jan. 25, but at some point in the near future, existing funds will run out if new appropriated funds do not become available," wrote the courts.