FCC To Appeals Court: Reject Verizon, MetroPCS Net Neutrality Challenges

The Federal Communications Commission has asked the D.C. Federal Appeals Court to reject the challenges to its network neutrality rules by Verizon and MetroPCS, saying both were premature.

Verizon argued that because it was challenging the new rules as a material modification in its FCC license, it needed to file by last week.

But a senior FCC official in an e-mail to Multichannel News said: "The rules that govern when and how parties may challenge FCC orders are clear, and Verizon and MetroPCS filed too early when they challenged the Open Internet order. Today, the FCC filed several motions with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking the court to dismiss both companies' challenges as premature."

There are three motions, two to deny the appeals, and a third to deny Verizon's request for a particular panel of judges.

The FCC says Verizon's suggestion that it is a license modification decision is untenable. The commission said in the filing that those decisions apply to specific parties and their licenses, while the network neutrality order is a general rule applying to the industry. It mirrored that argument in the MetroPCS filing, saying both should be thrown out as premature.

The rules are not subject to appeal until there are published in the Federal Register, the FCC said, which hasn't happened yet. That will also mean that parties challenging the rules can seek a hearing in different appeals courts, rather than the license modification route, which is confined to the D.C. Circuit, the venue Verizon and MetroPCS prefer because it is familiar with the issues, and likely since it was the one that raised questions about where the FCC was getting its authority to regulate the Internet.

The FCC also asked the court to deny Verizon's request that the same panel that heard the BitTorrent case hear their challenge to the Dec. 21 vote to expand and codify the FCC's network neutrality guidelines. "We ask that, in the interests of efficiency and conservation of resources, the Court defer the FCC's response to and the Court's consideration of Verizon's motion until it is clear whether the case will be heard in this Court."

"We will respond in due course," said a Verizon spokesman.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.