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Verizon Files Suit to Overthrow FCC on Net Neutrality Ruling

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January 21, 2011

Verizon Files Suit to Overthrow FCC on Net Neutrality Ruling

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

The Federal Communications Commission recently voted to support net neutrality, but Verizon doesn’t like this move. According to this Washington Post report, the nation’s number one wireless carrier is suing the FCC (News - Alert) to overturn the ruling.

Verizon is arguing that the FCC lacks the necessary legal authority to mandate how Internet service providers should treat content on their networks. This legal challenge was expected as the FCC’s involvement with net neutrality has been a hot topic of debate.

Verizon (News - Alert) may be hoping to leverage its position and earlier rulings on FCC power as the carrier opted to file its suit in the same court that ruled in April that the agency had overstepped its authority. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC did not have the power to try to sanction Comcast for blocking Web traffic.

The carrier secured Helgi Walker as lead attorney on the case, the same attorney that successfully represented Comcast (News - Alert) last spring. Verizon has also requested to select the judges who will hear the case, which is considered an unusual move and believed to be an attempt to secure the same judges that ruled again the FCC last April. Industry analysts suggest that other companies will likely file similar suits.

"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 E. Glover, Verizon's senior vice president and deputy general counsel, in the Washington Post. "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."

For its part, the agency has said in the past that it believes Congress gave the FCC the necessary power to pursue its rules under several interpretations of telecommunications laws. These rules are reportedly supported by consumer groups and web giants such as Google and Facebook.

While the FCC as an agency declined to comment on the filing, a senior official spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity and said that the agency believes it has the authority to carry out its net neutrality rules, which are largely focused on the Internet lines into American homes.

The rules are meant to prevent Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T (News - Alert) and Comcast from intentionally blocking or favoring some websites over others or blocking Internet voice applications, like Skype and Vonage. The official cited the Communications Act and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as providing the basis for the FCC’s actions.

This isn’t the first time Verizon has criticized the Internet access rules established by the FCC and the carrier is calling for a legislative overhaul of communications laws that take into account the entire ecosystem of the Internet.

It looks like the battle has just begun.

Want to learn more about how federal regulations are shaping and re-defining communications and information technology? Then be sure to attend the Regulatory 2.0 Workshop, collocated with TMC’s ITEXPO East, taking place Feb 2-4, 2011, in Miami. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) has pursued the singular goal of ubiquitous broadband access to an open Internet. While some progress has been made, the most difficult decisions are ahead. What's the Commission to do? This program will examine the important issues facing the FCC including net neutrality, inter-carrier compensation and universal service reform, new CALEA legislation, next generation 911, additional spectrum for wireless broadband and the evolving role of state regulation. To register, click here.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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