Policy + charging

Court Tosses Out Net Neutrality Challenge

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won a round Monday after an appeals court shot down lawsuits from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) that challenged the agency's new network neutrality rules. But the Commission's win may be only temporary.

Verizon and MetroPCS filed their lawsuits with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in January, contending that the FCC's order oversteps the agency's authority. It's the same court that had earlier overturned a net-neutrality-related order against Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) over its treatment of some peer-to-peer traffic.

The FCC, whose rules apply a lighter touch to wireless services than wireline services and were voted in last December, countered Verizon and MetroPCS with a motion for dismissal, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction in the case and that the carriers jumped the gun because they filed before the new rules were published in the Federal Register. (See The FCC Strikes Back.)

Media Access Project Policy Director Andrew Jay Schwartzman applauded the court's decision, claiming that "Verizon tried to "game the system" by attempting to challenge the FCC's open Internet decision prior to its official release" and that it was a "blatant effort to steer the case to a sympathetic court."

Why this matters
Although the court's three-judge panel agreed with the FCC's position, it didn't strike down the rules themselves. The case could be back to square one soon enough.

A Verizon spokesman labeled the court's dismissal a "procedural move" and said that the company filed in January "to protect our ability to appeal." Verizon, the official added, is prepared to do just that once the rules hit the Federal Register. MetroPCS declined to comment.

If either service provider goes through with an appeal, it won't likely happen until mid-year at the earliest. That's when the net-neutrality rules are expected to be published in the Federal Register.

For more
Here's a recap of the rules and the their challenges so far:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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