In what may only be a speed bump in a longer legal battle, a D.C. court of appeals has thrown out Verizon’s challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s recent net neutrality rules, saying the company filed the lawsuit prematurely.
Verizon launched the legal challenge before the rules, which were enacted in December, were filed in the Federal Registry.
“We are pleased the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the Commission that Verizon and MetroPCS were premature in challenging the Open Internet framework,” said FCC spokesman Robert Kenny. “The Commission’s policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America.”
A Verizon spokesman later said the company would re-file the suit, but this time it will wait until the commission publishes its new Internet rules in the federal register next month.
When the lawsuit was filed in January, Verizon executives said they were “deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself.”
Regional wireless carrier MetroPCS later joined Verizon in challenging the rules, citing similar concerns over FCC power. Other carriers, including AT&T, have signaled at least tepid support for the regulations.
The regulations, which aim to prevent Internet providers from blocking high-volume websites, are still not officially published in the Federal Register. The rules are expected to be published sometime next month.
Media advocacy groups praised the ruling, even as they called the verdict unsurprising.
“We are pleased that the Court dismissed Verizon’s untimely and distracting challenge to the FCC’s Net Neutrality order,” said Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge, in a statement. “Now we are confident the judicial system will deal with any and all appeals raised in an orderly and fair manner.”
In a statement, Andrew Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of the Media Access Project, a public interest law firm, accused Verizon of attempting to "game the system" by challenging the FCC's December adoption of net neutrality rules too early.
"It was a blatant effort to steer the case to a sympathetic court, but the judges unanimously agreed that the appeal's prematurity was incurable," Schwartzman wrote. "The future of the Internet is too important for such legal shenanigans," he added. "Notwithstanding Verizon's ploy, this case will be heard in the right court, at the right time."
David Hatch contributed to this report