Verizon officially relaunched its legal bid to overturn federal Internet competition rules on Friday, forcing the Federal Communications Commission to defend the regulations from detractors on all sides of the argument.
In an appeal filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the telecom giant argues that the case should be treated as an extension of a lawsuit involving Comcast last year. In that case, the court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to keep Comcast from limiting users’ access to a certain website.
In December, the FCC formally passed so-called net neutrality regulations, which are designed to prevent companies from restricting or blocking online access. Supporters say such rules are needed to keep Internet providers from acting anticompetitively, but some companies and conservatives say the rules are an unauthorized power grab by the FCC.
“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,” Michael Glover, Verizon deputy general counsel, said in a statement. “We believe this assertion of authority is inconsistent with the statute and will create uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors, and consumers."
In January, Verizon, eventually joined by MetroPCS, filed a lawsuit challenging the rules. But the D.C. court ruled that any lawsuits had to wait until after the regulations had been filed in the Federal Register. The net neutrality rules were published on Sept. 23 and are scheduled to go into effect at the end of November.
So far this week, at least four other groups have also challenged the rules in court. Unlike Verizon, those groups argue that the FCC didn’t go far enough to keep companies from blocking Internet access. Although they are also seeking to overturn the rules in court, the media reform group Free Press doesn’t want to see the FCC’s authority struck down.
“The FCC's rules are flawed and not strong enough, but Verizon's lawsuit would leave the FCC without any authority to protect Internet users whatsoever,” Free Press policy director Matt Wood said in a statement. “It's a power grab by a company that's looking to squeeze every last cent out of its customers with no rules and no oversight.”
Each of the lawsuits has been filed in different courts from California to Massachusetts, although the challenges are likely to eventually be combined.
Verizon is seeking to keep the case in the D.C. court, which ruled against the FCC in the Comcast case. In its filing, Verizon said the FCC’s rules modify its wireless spectrum licenses, automatically giving the D.C. court jurisdiction.
If the court does not agree that the rules modify Verizon’s licenses, then a court would be chosen through a lottery system. Parties that wish for their court to be considered must file by Monday.
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