Verizon warns FCC could violate law

Verizon this week offered its most thorough analysis so far on why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would break the law by taking a controversial step on new rules for the Internet.

Reclassifying broadband Internet so that the FCC could regulate it like traditional phone service would be a “radical and risky” move “with significant harmful consequences,” Verizon executive Michael Glover told the agency in a letter on Wednesday accompanying a 20-page legal analysis of the action.

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Any attempt to reclassify broadband service, even “hybrid” approaches that have been proposed, “would face significant legal challenge and would be unlikely to withstand appeal,” Verizon asserted in its white paper. 

That is “doubly true” when it comes to wireless Internet services, which the FCC has considered including in its new rules for net neutrality, the notion that Internet service providers such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable should be prohibited from slowing or blocking service to any one website over another.

Many critics of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s current proposal for the rules have said that they are not strong enough and would allow for companies to cut deals to create faster service for some websites over others. That could lead to “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” online, they fear.

Instead, they have urged the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet and use authorities granted under Title II of the Communications Act, which would give the FCC more power to regulate the service but would almost certainly draw a court challenge.

Verizon, which successfully sued to have the FCC's previous rules tossed out earlier this year, practically promised a lawsuit if the agency decided to reclassify Internet service to use the tougher authority.

“In short, no matter how Title II reclassification is packaged, such action could not withstand judicial review,” it said.

The FCC letter comes just hours after Verizon told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGOP insiders knock their depictions in new Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice’ Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence Barr says Trump won't be allowed to 'correct' Mueller report MORE (D-Vt.) that the agency had all the authority it needed to ban “fast lanes” without reclassifying the Internet.