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Friday
Jan212011

Verizon Appeals FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

Verizon Goes to Court Over Rules, The Same Rules That It Suggested Last August

In a widely expected move, Verizon announced yesterday that it has gone to court, appealing the recently adopted Net Neutrality rules imposed by the FCC in December.  Verizon’s suit suggests that the FCC doesn’t have sufficient authority to regulate the Internet; the company’s deputy general counsel Michael Glover said in a statement, "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."

Wait a minute.  Didn’t Verizon, along with Internet behemoth Google make its own suggestions for a “legislative framework” regarding Net Neutrality just last summer?  And weren’t those suggestions largely followed in the FCC’s December rules?

It seems Verizon is primarily upset that the FCC adopted the new rules, rather than Congress.  And the FCC did lose a similar fight last spring when a Federal court of appeals ruled that the Commission did not have the authority to regulate Comcast’s “network management practices.”   Judge David Tatel, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, wrote that the FCC lacked “any statutorily mandated responsibility” to enforce network neutrality rules. 

We’re told that what really got Verizon up in arms was certain language in the order that could be interpreted as a signal that the Commission may maneuver to extend its authority in the future, on issues like pricing or network management when it comes to special services.

In response to the Verizon announcement, the FCC said simply "We are confident the order is legally sound and are prepared to defend it in any forum."

But back to the substance of the net neutrality rules adopted in December.  Virtually point by point, the FCC’s rules followed the “Verizoogle” proposal.  For example, on the distinction between mobile and fixed service providers, Verizon and Google said the following:

“Because of the unique technical and operational characteristics of wireless networks, and the competitive and still-developing nature of wireless broadband services, only the transparency principle would apply to wireless broadband at this time. The U.S. Government Accountability Office would report to Congress annually on the continued development and robustness of wireless broadband Internet access services.”

In comparison, the FCC’s December rules said,

“Mobile broadband is at an earlier stage in its development than fixed broadband and is evolving rapidly. For that and other reasons discussed below, we conclude that it is appropriate at this time to take measured steps in this area. Accordingly, we require mobile broadband providers to comply with the transparency rule, which includes enforceable disclosure obligations regarding device and application certification and approval processes; we prohibit providers from blocking lawful websites; and we prohibit providers from blocking applications that compete with providers’ voice and video telephony services. We will closely monitor the development of the mobile broadband market and will adjust the framework we adopt today as appropriate.”

Not a whole heckuva lot of difference!  But apparently the legal team at Verizon wants its rules written into legislation by Congress, and more importantly, is resisting any effort by the FCC to assert greater authority down the road.  Let the legal battles begin!

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