Verizon appeals FCC’s net-neutrality order

Verizon issued a challenge on Thursday to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net-neutrality order. 

The company filed the challenge in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the FCC’s net-neutrality arguments a year ago. 

Michael Glover, Verizon’s deputy general counsel, said in a statement that the appeal follows a “careful review” of the FCC’s net-neutrality rules, which the agency passed in December.

“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself,” he said. “We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.”

The FCC lost last year when Comcast challenged a net-neutrality fine. The agency says it has since regrouped and found a stronger legal basis for its policy.

House Republicans immediately praised Verizon’s effort. 

“We welcome the decision by Verizon, and hopefully others, to demand their day in court to block the FCC’s misguided attempt to regulate the Internet. At stake is not just innovation and economic growth, although those concerns are vital,” said a statement from House Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.), Communications subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) and vice chair Lee Terry (Neb.). 

“Equally important is putting a check on an FCC that is acting beyond the authority granted to it by Congress. Between our legislative efforts and this court action, we will put the FCC back on firmer ground,” they said. 

It has been no secret that Verizon might challenge the order. The company said it did not support the rules as soon as they passed in December, in contrast to the cable industry group NCTA and the nation’s other largest wireless provider, AT&T, which have basically stated they can live with them. 

Verizon played an integral role in shaping the rules, and was one of only a few companies involved in stakeholder talks at the commission over the summer. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said Verizon’s separate net-neutrality efforts with Google undermined his efforts. 

Verizon had teamed up with Google to unveil a net-neutrality proposal of their own which featured a weaker framework than the one eventually adopted by the commission. 

Net neutrality purists at Free Press blasted Verizon for the appeal.

“Verizon’s decision demonstrates that even the most weak and watered-down rules aren’t enough to appease giant phone companies,” Aparna Sridhar, policy counsel, said in a statement. 

“It’s ironic that Verizon is unhappy with rules that were written to placate it, and it’s now clear that it will settle for nothing less than total deregulation and a toothless FCC in the relentless pursuit of profit,” she said. 

Other net-neutrality proponents took issue with Verizon’s efforts to get the case into the D.C. Circuit, which was hostile to the FCC’s open Internet efforts last time around. 

“Verizon is trying to be too cute in trying to pick not only the venue for the challenge to the rules, but also to pick the judges to hear it.  The court should see through this ploy and reject Verizon’s attempt to pick the home field for its appeal,” said Harold Feld, legal director at Public Knowledge. 

Verizon’s appeal listed four grounds for the challenge: the order is in excess of the FCC’s statutory authority; it is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion witin the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act; it is contrary to constitutional right; and it is otherwise contrary to law.

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