Bloomberg News

Verizon, Other ‘Net Neutrality’ Challenges Consolidated

October 06, 2011

(Updates with FCC comment in fifth paragraph.)

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Verizon Communications Inc.’s challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called net neutrality rules was consolidated with six others into a single case before the U.S. Appeals Court in Washington.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which ordered the move, said the selection of the Washington court was random. Verizon sued in Washington last week to overturn open- Internet rules set to take effect Nov. 20, arguing the FCC lacks authority to regulate how companies provide Internet service.

The rules, adopted in December, would prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing the flow of Web content to homes and businesses. It’s the second time New York- based Verizon has asked the Washington court to overturn the regulations. The court dismissed the first lawsuit April 4, saying the challenge was premature.

“We’ve believed all along that this is the proper venue,” said Edward McFadden, a spokesman for Verizon in Washington, adding that the Washington court has previously handled similar cases involving communications, the Internet and broadband.

Neil Grace, an FCC spokesman, said the agency “stands ready to defend its Open Internet Order in any court of appeals.”

In addition to Verizon, six other challenges were filed in federal courts in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Richmond, Virginia.

Open Internet Order

The FCC’s Open Internet Order requires Internet service providers to disclose their network-management practices and performance, prohibits providers from blocking access to competitor websites or applications, and bars providers from “unreasonably discriminating” in the speed of transmissions.

Last year, the FCC’s censure of Comcast Corp. for interfering with subscribers’ Internet traffic was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which ruled the agency lacked the authority to do so.

Gigi Sohn, the president of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group that supports the FCC’s rules, said that had the cases been assigned to a different court, there would have been a greater chance that a decision in favor of the FCC could put the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It would have been more attractive to the Supreme Court,” to have two appeals courts with opposite rulings, she said in an interview.

The Verizon case is Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, 11-1356, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

--Editors: Fred Strasser, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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