Verizon’s Net Neutrality Challenge Claims It Violates Their Licenses

Not happy with the FCC’s new net neutrality regulations passed last month, Verizon Communications filed an appeal against them in the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Thursday. The FCC’s rules aim to prevent Internet service providers from blocking certain websites or applications.Verizon’s appeal claims that the FCC has overstepped its authority and that the rules violate the company’s constitutional rights. The company says that the net neutrality rules modify the terms of existing licenses held by Verizon. So, rather than launching a lawsuit that directly challenges the regulations, the company is appealing the rules as an illegal change to their existing licenses.

In a press release, Michael E. Glover, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel 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.”

Verizon’s other motion, also filed Thursday, asks the federal appeals court to assign to hear the appeal the same panel of judges who last April ruled that the FCC didn’t have the authority to censure Comcast for interfering with users’ web traffic.

Net neutrality advocates were quick to call out Verizon, accusing them of playing legal games with the issue and the venue. Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge, a DC-based group who has lobbied for stronger rules, explained that by filing the challenge as a license appeal, they were attempting to assure themselves access to judges with an apparent hostility to net neutrality.

“Verizon is trying to be too cute in trying to pick not only the venue for the challenge to the rules, but also to pick the judges to hear it,” said Feld. “The court should see through this ploy and reject Verizon’s attempt to pick the home field for its appeal.”

Verizon’s “too cute” strategy is “basically Verizon fishing for a favorable court and favorable panel to hear the appeal,” David Sohn, senior policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, told TPM. According to Sohn, Verizon’s challenge to the FCC did not come as a shock — but that they surprised many with their early appeal to courts before the FCC’s order was even published in the Federal Register.

The FCC did not return calls by the time this article went to press, but a senior official who asked to remain anonymous told The New York Times that the agency was confident its order was legally sound and that they would most likely challenge Verizon’s appeal on the grounds that the lawsuit itself violated FCC rules.

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