Verizon, FCC Net Neutrality Suit Is Bad News for All Sides: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-01-22 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Verizon has decided to wage battle against the FCC over an already-weak rule protecting net neutrality. But neither side is going to look good in a legal tussle that could set back the cause of network neutrality, one way or another.

Net neutrality and the legal fight that surrounds it is something that can't be explained so easily. In essence, the Federal Communications Commission believes that it has the power to establish some basic rules on user access to the Internet. Internet providers, however, feel that they can regulate themselves and that the intrusion of federal government officials into their businesses is simply unacceptable.

However, last year, Verizon (with Google) unveiled some solutions to the net neutrality debate that, it believed, would help solve the problem once and for all. Much to the surprise of those who have been following net neutrality over the years, the FCC adopted many of the ideas that Verizon first set forth last year. All seemed to be good.

But now Verizon has decided to challenge the FCC's rules, saying that they are "contrary to constitutional right." And further inspection reveals that neither party-Verizon nor the FCC-has made itself look good in this battle. Moreover, the entire net-neutrality debate is once again coming to the fore. It's looking like just one big bundle of bad.

Read on to find out why.

1. It's basically Verizon's idea.

If one compares what Verizon first proposed last year, and what the FCC eventually ruled on the topic of net neutrality, they wouldn't find many differences. In fact, the only major difference between the two proposals was that Verizon's option, which was done in tandem with Google, asked that the FCC not have "rulemaking authority." That is something that the FCC largely ignored. But given the rest of the similarities, one might rightfully ask why Verizon is so upset about something that, if its previous proposal is to be considered, is something it should be quite happy about.

2. It makes Verizon look greedy.

Verizon's decision to argue in court about the FCC's net neutrality rules makes the company look greedy. It's as if its first concern is its own financial health, which Verizon seemingly believes the FCC will negatively affect, rather than what might be right for the Internet. Admittedly, such a response isn't much of a surprise, considering Verizon is a corporation with responsibilities to shareholders. But this latest lawsuit, right or not, makes it look greedy. And that's something its PR team must address.

3. Was the FCC right in the first place?

Verizon's challenge to the FCC rules prompts some to wonder if the government organization was right to offer up solutions to net neutrality in the first place. The FCC's solution attempts to prevent service providers from blocking access to lawful content, services or applications. It also tries to stop providers from "unreasonably discriminat[ing] in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer's broadband Internet access service." But with Verizon's latest suit, the debate now turns to whether the FCC should have the right to impose such restrictions on companies. Verizon certainly doesn't think it should.

4. The court choice is suspect.

If nothing else, Verizon's decision to choose the same court that ruled in Comcast's favor in a previous net-neutrality complaint and even request the same judges is something that doesn't make the company look good. From a legal perspective, it's the smart move, since Verizon has found a court that might be more sympathetic to its argument. But by potentially stacking the cards against the FCC, it looks like the bully. And that's something it doesn't need right now from a PR perspective.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel