Verizon, MetroPCS Lawsuits Against FCC Net-Neutrality Rules Dismissed

Lawsuits filed by Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS against the FCC's new net-neutrality rules have been thrown out-for the time being-by a federal court.

A federal appeals court has dismissed lawsuits filed by Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS against the Federal Communications Commission's net-neutrality regulations, calling the suits premature.

In their lawsuits, Verizon and MetroPCS took issue with the FCC's new rulings regarding net neutrality, which the regulatory agency would like to put in place to specify wireless carriers' behaviors in providing consumers with Internet service. While the FCC voted in December 2010 to adopt the new rules, they haven't yet been formally published. The court ruled that once those regulations are in place-likely in late May or early June-the carriers can then dispute them, The Wall Street Journal reported April 5.

Verizon, in a suit it filed Jan. 20, said it would challenge the rules later if the original lawsuit were tossed out. MetroPCS isn't offering comment on the matter, the Journal added.

The net-neutrality rules address three issues-transparency, blocking and discrimination. The FCC wants broadband providers to publically disclose their management practices to subscribers, to restrict broadband providers from blocking or slowing the Internet content of competitors, and from "discriminating" against legal traffic by, say, offering faster speeds to those willing to pay for it.

In its suit, Verizon questioned the FCC's authority to weigh in on such matters.

"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," Verizon said in a Jan. 20 statement.

Five days later, MetroPCS followed with its own suit. "MetroPCS is committed to promoting competition and an open Internet by giving consumers choices for wireless Internet access services at prices they can afford," Roger D. Linquist, MetroPCS president and CEO, said in a Jan. 25 statement.

The new FCC rules would prohibit some of MetroPCS' current practices. The carrier, which offers its own MetroStudio video service, blocks subscribers from accessing competing sites such as Netflix.

The FCC has applauded the court's decision.

"We are pleased the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the commission that Verizon and MetroPCS were premature in challenging the Open Internet framework," said FCC spokesman Robert Kenny, according to the Journal. "The commission's policy preserves Internet freedom and openness, and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America."

The FCC, in a Dec. 21, 2010, statement, described its news rules as working to "preserve the Internet as an open network enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, user control, competition and the freedom to innovate."

The FCC has additionally taken measures to ensure that all Americans have access to high-speed Internet services, and in an April 4 statement, FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn spoke against legislation designed to prevent state, regional and local governments from building their own broadband networks. While proponents of the legislation believe it would create a more level playing field for providers of the service, Clyburn said the practice could instead prevent local governments from stepping in to provide broadband service to areas that have been underserved by private companies.

"No American citizen or community should be left behind in the digital age," Clyburn said in a statement. "I remain concerned that when cities and local governments are prohibited from investing directly in their own broadband networks, citizens may be denied the opportunity to connect with their nation and improve their lives. Local economies will suffer as a result, and the communities' ability to effectively address education, health, public safety and other social issues will be severely hampered."

North Carolina, South Carolina and Arkansas are all considering the legislation.