FCC Sued Over Net Neutrality Regulations

Free Press is seeking a review on the grounds that the decision violates the Communications Act of 1934.

A media reform group is suing the Federal Communications Commission over the Internet regulations the agency put in place late last year.

The group Free Press filed the lawsuit against the FCC Sept. 28 in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The organization is seeking review of the FCC's December 2010 Open Internet order. Free Press, headquartered in Western Massachusetts, wants to challenge the "arbitrary nature of rule provisions" that provide less protection for mobile wireless Internet access than they do for wired connections as part of the FCC's net neutrality proposal.

"When the FCC first proposed the Open Internet rules, they came with the understanding that there is only one Internet, no matter how people choose to reach it," Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said in a statement. "The final rules provide some basic protections for consumers, but do not deliver on the promise to preserve openness for mobile Internet access. They fail to protect wireless users from discrimination, and they let mobile providers block innovative applications with impunity."

Wood said the group's challenge will show that there is no evidence in the record to justify this arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access.

"The disparity that the FCC's rules create is unjust and unjustified. And it's especially problematic because of the increasing popularity of wireless, along with its increasing importance for younger demographics and diverse populations who rely on mobile devices as their primary means for getting online," he said. "Free Press will fight in court to make these rules stronger, even as we work elsewhere to uphold the FCC's crucial role in promoting openness and equality on the Internet."

Specifically, Free Press is seeking the review on the grounds that the decision violates the Communications Act of 1934, or other statutes, and is "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise contrary to law." The organization is requesting that the court hold unlawful and set aside, vacate or enjoin such aspects of the Open Internet Order as necessary, remand the petition to the FCC for further proceedings, and order any such other relief as the court may find proper.

The FCC released a statement of its own regarding the lawsuit, vowing to "vigorously oppose any effort to disrupt or unsettle that certainty, which ensures that the Internet remains an engine for job creation, innovation and economic growth."

This is not the first time the FCC has been sued over its net neutrality regulations: In April, a federal appeals court dismissed lawsuits filed by Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS against the FCC's proposed 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.