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Federal Court Denies Delay in Net Neutrality Case

7 Mar, 2012 By: Jackie Jones

WASHINGTON – A federal appellate court has refused to delay a lawsuit in which Verizon Communications and MetroPCS are challenging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality regulations that went into effect in December 2010, according to court documents and multiple media reports.

Verizon filed an appeal Jan. 20, 2011 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit opposing the authority of the FCC to impose net neutrality rules approved in December 2010 (Response This Week, Jan. 25, 2011). The FCC had asked the case to be delayed while it considered possible clarifications of the neutrality order, a request the appellate court rejected without further explanation.

Neither the FCC nor Verizon and MetroPCS had yet commented publicly on the latest development, though in an official statement released in January 2011 when Verizon first filed its appeal, the company said, “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 rules, which are intended to give the federal government the ability to regulate Internet traffic, prohibit wired Internet providers from discrimination against certain types of content and provide users with more information from companies regarding their service plans, speeds and costs. The FCC exceeded its authority by approving such rules, Verizon contended in its appeal last year.

Verizon and MetroPCS’ original complaints were dismissed on a technicality last spring after a court determined they had been filed prematurely – before the FCC had published its order in the Federal Register, according to court documents. The complaints were then re-filed in the fall once the regulations were published.

The FCC’s ability to regulate broadband providers would be significantly jeopardized if it lost this latest suit, many in the industry have said. The appellate court’s most recent decision opens the doors for the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rule on net neutrality as soon as this year, with research company Stifel Nicolaus predicting the case will be scheduled for this spring, with oral arguments in the fall.

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