Verizon Communications is suing the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, challenging the body's new rules regarding the contentious issue of net neutrality. The appeal was filed Jan. 20 with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit.
"Today's filing is the result of a careful review of the FCC's order. We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself," Michael Glover, Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a Jan. 20 statement. "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 voted to adopt net neutrality regulations Dec. 21, though even the commissioners behind the idea were not entirely pleased with the rules as they stood. Following the vote, there were reports that Verizon was considering filing a suit in protest, though some found the ruling unsatisfactory and "watered down" specifically because they appeared to be written so as to please Verizon, which had been incredibly vocal about its position.Aparna Sridhar, policy counsel at the media reform group Free Press, described the rules as being written to "placate" Verizon, which will "settle for nothing less than total deregulation and a toothless FCC in the relentless pursuit of profit," according to the IDG News Service. Analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technology Associates, told eWEEK that, given that Verizon is in the business of billing, it makes sense that the company is reacting in this manner. He described the carrier, however, as "being a spoiled child, stamping its foot and saying that any regulation is too much."Expected to go into effect in early 2011, the rules give the federal government the authority to regulate Internet traffic through the FCC and address three broad issues: transparency, blocking and discrimination."The rules require all broadband providers to publicly disclose network management practices, restrict broadband providers from blocking Internet content and applications, and bar fixed broadband providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic," the FCC said a Dec. 21 statement.The rules also discourage cable and phone companies from offering faster service to customers, such as Internet providers, that are willing to pay extra. Paying for priority service, said the FCC, goes against its rule of no unreasonable discrimination."A commercial arrangement between a broadband provider and a third party to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic in the connection to a subscriber of the broadband provider (i.e., "pay for priority") would raise significant cause for concern," the FCC said in its statement. First, because granting priority to some would depart from historic and current practices, as well as go against the spirit of the Internet, and second because this departure from longstanding norms could harm innovation and investment in and on the Internet.Verizon, in the January statement following its appeal, said it would do just the opposite."Verizon has long been committed to preserving an open Internet and meeting the needs of our customers," said Glover. "We have worked extensively with all players in the Internet and communications space to shape policies that ensure an open Internet and encourage investment, innovation and collaboration with content providers and others to meet the needs of consumers."As they currently stand, the rules, said EndPoint Technology's Kay, are "very complicated" and "very imperfect." Ideally, he said, "you want to guarantee that everyone gets good service, and no one gets penalized for paying for even better service. But we're not yet there with this law."