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Verizon Files Challenge to FCC's Net Neutrality Rules

Verizon Communications has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, the company said Friday.

The FCC's net neutrality rules, approved by the commission in December, are illegal because they would modify Verizon's existing spectrum licenses without the company's approval, the company said in its notice of appeal, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Verizon's lawsuit, which was expected, comes days after media reform group Free Press and nonprofit ISP Mountain Area Informational Network (MAIN) filed their own lawsuits challenging the FCC regulations. Free Press and MAIN both argued the rules for mobile broadband providers aren't strong enough because they don't match the rules for wireline providers.

Verizon's lawsuit attacks the FCC from a different perspective, with the carrier wanting the rules invalidated.

"Verizon is fully committed to an open Internet," Michael Glover, Verizon's senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement. "We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority to impose potentially sweeping and unneeded regulations on broadband networks and services and on the Internet itself. We believe this assertion of authority is inconsistent with the statute and will create uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers."

The FCC has argued that the net neutrality rules give providers certainty about what actions are allowed. The agency will "vigorously oppose" any efforts to overturn the rules, the agency said in a statement this week. The FCC published the net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Sept. 23, with publication opening the door for groups to file lawsuits.

The regulations, often called open Internet rules, prohibit broadband providers from blocking customer access to legal Web content. The rules require broadband providers to disclose their network management practices and performance metrics to customers, in addition to prohibiting broadband providers from blocking legal Web content.

The FCC, however, did not prohibit mobile carriers from the "unreasonable discrimination" that wireline broadband providers are required to avoid. The rules prohibit mobile providers from blocking voice and other applications that compete with their services, but do not prohibit them from blocking other applications.

The FCC exempted specialized, or managed, services offered by broadband providers from most net neutrality rules.

Free Press' appeal was filed in a Boston appeals court, and MAIN's in Richmond, Virginia.

Earlier this year, Verizon and MetroPCS filed challenges to the rules, but the D.C. court rejected the lawsuits because the companies filed before the rules were published in the Federal Register.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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