The media reform group Free Press on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging the government's so-called network neutrality rules designed to prevent anticompetitive behavior online, saying they don't go far enough.
"The final rules provide some basic protections for consumers, but do not deliver on the promise to preserve openness for mobile Internet access,” said Free Press policy director Matt Wood, whose group filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, one of the first publicized legal challenge to the regulations. “They fail to protect wireless users from discrimination, and they let mobile providers block innovative applications with impunity.”
The Federal Communications Commission’s regulations, which prohibit Internet companies from blocking or unduly limiting Internet access, have become a punching bag for critics on both the left and the right.
On Wednesday an FCC spokesperson defended the rules, saying that even before they go into effect, they have provided more certainty in the market.
"We will vigorously oppose any effort to disrupt or unsettle that certainty, which ensures that the Internet remains an engine for job creation, innovation and economic growth,” the agency said in a statement.
Many Internet service providers, joined by conservatives, accuse the FCC of overstepping. Consumer advocates and many Democrats, on the other hand, say the agency enacted weak rules.
Broadband giant Verizon filed a lawsuit after the net neutrality rules were enacted in December, but a court ruled that the company had to wait until the rules were formally published in the Federal Register. The rules were published on Friday and are scheduled to go into effect at the end of November. Verizon is expected to refile its own legal challenge.
Free Press specifically cited the decision by the FCC to make the rules apply differently to wired and wireless service.
“Our challenge will show that there is no evidence in the record to justify this arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access,” Wood said. “The disparity that the FCC's rules create is unjust and unjustified.”
Before Free Press filed its challenge, fellow public interest group Public Knowledge vowed to "vigorously defend" the rules in court, but a spokesman on Wednesday said he could not comment on whether that would include opposing Free Press's lawsuit.