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D.C. court to hear challenges to Net Neutrality rules

The FCC will have to defend its new Net neutrality rules in a federal appeals court, which has already once told the FCC that it's overstepped its authority on this issue.

Challenges to the Federal Communications Commission's Net neutrality rules will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a situation supporters of the rules had hoped to avoid.

On Thursday, the D.C. Circuit was chosen at random to be the court where challenges to the new rules, which prohibit broadband Internet providers from deliberately slowing or blocking subscribers' network traffic, will be heard. The rules were passed by the FCC in 2010. And they were officially registered with the government last month, opening up the process for legal challenges before the rules go into effect later this year.

The D.C. Circuit appeals court has ruled unfavorably for the FCC in the past when it comes to Net neutrality issues. In 2010, the D.C. court rejected the FCC's efforts to sanction Comcast for violating what were then Net neutrality principles. Comcast had been accused of deliberately slowing down certain kinds of network traffic on its broadband network in 2008. In ruling against the FCC, the D.C. court said that the FCC had over stepped its authority.

Knowing this history, groups on both sides of the debate were trying to either get cases challenging the new Net neutrality rules heard in the D.C. Circuit court or they were trying to avoid it. Verizon Communications was so eager to land the case in D.C. that it sued the FCC in the D.C. court even before the new rules were published. The court threw out its suit, saying it was premature. Verizon refiled its complaint last week, after the FCC had officially published the new rules in the Federal Register.

Groups supporting the new rules filed their own challenges to the new regulation in six other appeals courts in the hopes that a court other than the one in D.C. would be chosen. But that plan was thwarted with the selection of the D.C. Circuit court.

A representative from the FCC told the Wall Street Journal that the agency is confident it will be able to defend itself in any court of appeals.