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Verizon challenges FCC net neutrality rules in court

Verizon tells a federal court that the FCC exceeded its authority when it enacted regulations to ensure net neutrality.

January 21, 2011|Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — Verizon Communications Inc. has taken to federal court its attempt to stop the Federal Communications Commission's controversial new rules to guarantee open Internet access.

In a widely expected move, the telecommunications giant told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the FCC exceeded its authority when it enacted regulations last month to ensure so-called net neutrality.

The regulations forbid owners of high-speed lines and airwaves from favoring their services over competitors'.

"We are deeply concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself," Michael E. Glover, Verizon's deputy general counsel, said Thursday. "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 FCC said in a statement: "We are confident the order is legally sound and are prepared to defend it in any forum."

The commission voted 3 to 2 along party lines last month to enact net neutrality rules, a top priority of President Obama and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The rules prohibit phone and cable companies that provide high-speed Internet service from blocking access to any legal content, applications or services.

The rules are tougher on wired service than on the still-developing market for mobile Internet service. And after years of debate, the regulations did not go as far as some Democrats and consumer and digital rights advocates had wanted. That led to qualified support from some telecommunications companies, such as AT&T Inc.

But many congressional Republicans were outraged by the FCC's move and have pledged to try to stop it. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, praised Verizon's suit Thursday.

Verizon, which said it is committed to an open Internet, has been outspoken in arguing that the new regulations are not needed.

Genachowski's office did not immediately comment on the Verizon appeal.

But Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said Verizon's charge that the rules create uncertainty "doesn't hold water."

"Consumers should be able to surf the web without their Internet provider limiting their choices to its preferred sites," she said. "The rules bring clarity and focus to a situation that's been hanging in limbo for years."

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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