Court tosses Verizon, MetroPCS suits against FCC

Appeals court calls suits premature, a setback for carriers in their effort to dismantle a new Net neutrality regulation adopted by the federal agency late last year.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has thrown out Verizon and MetroPCS' suits challenging the Federal Communications Commission's new Net neutrality rules.

The appeals court said in its order today that the suits filed in January by Verizon Communications and MetroPCS were premature. Specifically, the court said that Verizon and MetroPCS needed to wait until the FCC's Net neutrality rules are posted to the Federal Register before they could file their suits.

The suits, which the broadband providers filed separately, accused the FCC of overstepping its jurisdiction in adopting new rules that would limit what network operators could and could not do to manage traffic on its network. The wireless operators used their wireless licenses as the legal basis for filing the suit.

The FCC asked the federal court in late January to dismiss lawsuits because they were filed too early.

"We are pleased the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the commission that Verizon and MetroPCS were premature in challenging the Open Internet framework," FCC Spokesman Robert Kenny said in a statement. "The commission's policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America."

Related links
FCC moves to dismiss Net neutrality lawsuits
Verizon fires legal shot against Net neutrality rules
FCC makes Net neutrality rules official

The FCC adopted rules codifying specific Net neutrality principles in late December, but the agency hasn't yet submitted the rules as part of the Federal Register. The FCC is still collecting comments on the order until April 10. The FCC will then review comments and there is another comment period for 30 more days. After all this is complete, the order can be published in the Federal Register

The new regulation will prevent broadband providers from blocking or degrading services. But it also establishes two classes of service subject to different rules: one that applies to fixed broadband networks and one for wireless networks.

Net neutrality opponents have been voicing their opposition to the rules since they were adopted a few weeks ago. And some Republican congressional leaders have already pledged to dismantle the new Open Internet rules.

In April, the D.C. Circuit Court tossed out the FCC's August 2008 cease-and-desist order against Comcast, which had taken measures to slow BitTorrent transfers before voluntarily ending them earlier that year.

Since then, the FCC's authority has been called into question. Some people believe that the agency has no authority to enact these rules. But the FCC asserted in its Open Internet ruling that it does have the authority to impose rules and regulations governing Net neutrality.

Verizon said in a statement that the dismissal of the case was based on procedure and that it intends to refile its suit once the new rules are published in the Federal Register.

"As Verizon's initial filing with the First District Court noted, the FCC's rules for the filing period of an appeal to the December Net neutrality order are unclear, and our filing in January was based on release of the Net neutrality order in order to protect our rights; we intend to make a second filing when the order is published in the Federal Register."