Verizon today asked a federal appeals court to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s “net neutrality” rules, firing the opening shot in what may be a protracted legal battle over the controversial requirements.
The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based company alleges that the FCC exceeded its authority and violated the company’s constitutional rights by dictating how it can manage its networks. Verizon filed the suit in the same court that ruled against the FCC when Comcast challenged its authority in 2008.
“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself,” said Michael Glover, Verizon’s deputy general counsel. “We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress, and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.”
The FCC’s net neutrality rules, passed in December, prohibit Internet service providers from blocking legal Web traffic, for example, to undermine a competing service. The rules forbid ISPs from selectively slowing traffic to popular sites, but do allow for “reasonable” management of networks to deal with congestion. They also open the door for companies like Netflix to pay ISPs more for faster data delivery.
The rules provide more leeway to wireless carriers, which arguably need more freedom to managed congested networks burdened with increasing numbers of data-hungry smartphones. However, they are still forbidden from blocking access to competing voice and video applications.
Under the rules, all ISPs must disclose their network management policies.
The legal challenge is not a surprise, as both sides in the debate were unsatisfied with the FCC’s set of compromises. At the time, AT&T stated the rules were “not ideal,” while Verizon was “deeply concerned.” On the other hand, public interest groups have criticized the rules for ceding too much power to ISPs and carriers, and companies like Skype and Netflix, which rely on high-speed Internet access, have questioned whether they go far enough in protecting them from discrimination.
More legal action is expected from both sides. House Republicans have already proposed legislation to repeal the rules, while public interest groups may attack them for being too lax.