Verizon files lawsuit over FCC Net neutrality order

The FCC went beyond its authority in creating Net neutrality regulations in a Dec. 21 vote, the company says

Broadband provider Verizon Communications has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. FCC's authority to enforce Net neutrality rules.

Verizon filed the lawsuit Thursday in Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the company said. The FCC voted Dec. 21 to prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web content and applications.

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Court challenges to the FCC's vote were widely expected.

Verizon is committed to preserving an open Internet, but the lawsuit comes after a "careful review" of the FCC order, Michael Glover, Verizon's senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement.

"We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself," he added. "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."

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the Verizon lawsuit.

In addition to exceeding its statutory authority, the FCC acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in approving the rules, Verizon's lawyers wrote in their five-page court document filed Thursday. The FCC's rules are also "contrary to constitutional right," Verizon said.

Verizon also argued that its mobile spectrum licenses were unlawfully modified by the FCC in the Net neutrality order, suggesting that the company will focus on the FCC's modest Net neutrality rules for mobile broadband carriers. The FCC's rules put stronger Net neutrality rules on wireline broadband service than on mobile service.

Backers of strong Net neutrality rules said they weren't surprised by the challenge.

"Verizon's decision demonstrates that even the most weak and watered-down rules aren't enough to appease giant phone companies," said Aparna Sridhar, policy counsel at Free Press, a media reform group that has criticized the FCC's actions as too weak. "It's ironic that Verizon is unhappy with rules that were written to placate it, and it's now clear that it will settle for nothing less than total deregulation and a toothless FCC in the relentless pursuit of profit."

In the bulk of the document Verizon filed Thursday, the company argues that the D.C. Circuit court of appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to the Net neutrality rules because the FCC modified its mobile licenses. In early 2010, that same court threw out an FCC attempt to enforce informal Net neutrality principles in a case involving Comcast throttling peer-to-peer traffic.

That's a "very bizarre theory" about jurisdiction, said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director at the Media Access Project, a digital rights group supporting strong net neutrality rules. "This is a blatant effort to locate their challenge in a favorable forum," he said. "Under Verizon's bizarre theory, all agency actions changing rules are modifications of hundreds of thousands of licenses."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for the IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

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