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Verizon renews criticism of Net neutrality regulations

Exec says Verizon needed to sue over Net neutrality to rein in an out-of-control federal agency and reestablish the rule of law.

caption: Verizon executive Tom Tauke, left, says it's "critical" that the Federal Communications Commission be required to follow the law.
caption: Verizon executive Tom Tauke, left, says it's "critical" that the Federal Communications Commission be required to follow the law.
Declan McCullagh/CNET

ASPEN, Colo. -- Verizon today renewed its criticisms of the Obama administration's Net neutrality rules, saying its lawsuit seeking to overturn them will rein in an out-of-control federal agency.

The company's lawsuit is about "the importance of restraint on the regulatory authority in the Internet space," said Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president for public affairs. "We believe that is critical -- and this battle is really a battle about that kind of restraint."

In September 2011, Verizon filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Federal Communication Commission's Net neutrality rules. The suit, currently pending before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., claims the FCC did not have the legal authority to adopt the regulations.

"If you allow an agency to go outside those guidelines and begin to set policies that is not authorized (to do), then there is no limitation on what that agency can do," Tauke said at the Technology Policy Institute's conference here today.

Tauke said that if the FCC takes action based on real harm to consumer or competition, "I think that's fine -- but once you get into the business of having an agency set rules for fear of what could go wrong in the marketplace...that has the potential to limit innovation."

In 2006, Democrats and their allies in liberal special interest groups had supported an effort to explicitly grant the FCC the power to regulate broadband providers' network management practices. That failed in both a House floor vote and in a Senate committee vote.

That left the FCC's Democratic majority on shaky legal ground, something that Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell highlighted (PDF) in his dissent at the time, which said the agency "does not have the legal authority to issue these rules." (It also means that if President Obama is not reelected, the next FCC will have a Republican majority that could vote to nix Net neutrality.)

In April 2010, a federal appeals court agreed, unceremoniously slapping down the FCC's attempt to impose Net neutrality penalties on Comcast for its temporary BitTorrent throttling. The same court is considering Verizon's case.