It didn't take long for the FCC's new net neutrality regulations to be challenged in court. As you might remember, the FCC abandoned an effort to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, opting to use existing laws to establish FCC authority to regulate Internet service. At the time, this was seen as a concession of sorts to large telecommunications providers such as Verizon and Comcast. Comcast even called the proposed regulations a "workable balance," when announced on December 21, 2010.
There are many parallels between this filing and the Comcast case. The Verizon suit was filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is the same court which ruled against the FCC in the Comcast case. The attorney representing Verizon is Helgi Walker, who was the same attorney who was successful in the Comcast case. Verizon even emphasizes that the Comcast case is the basis for their lawsuit.
The Verizon Court filing states:
"The net neutrality rules are arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion of the Administrative Procedure Act, contrary to constitutional right and otherwise contrary to law. "
In a statement released by Verizon, they added:
"We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself. 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 net neutrality regulations were narrowly approved by the FCC. Two Republican commissioners voted against the rules, with three Democrat commissioners voting in favor of the rules. With a Republican majority now controlling the House after the November elections, this new legal challenge will certainly set the stage for a political showdown in Congress. President Barack Obama wholeheartedly supported the December FCC action, and commented from The White House:
"This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation."
Statements about the Verizon challenge are being released from several influential lawmakers. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement that Verizon's appeal is "an attempt to unwind an Order that provides safeguards for consumers and promotes investment and job creation."
Senator John Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and Representative Henry Waxman, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a joint statement that "Verizon has the legal right to do this, but we are disappointed that they filed suit. We support the FCC's efforts because they will protect consumers and provide companies with the certainty they need to make investments in our growing digital economy."
2011 will be an important year for broadband, as issues such as the availability of spectrum, restructuring the Universal Service Fund, broadband for public safety, and net neutrality continue to be emphasized as national priorities.