Appeals court knocks down Verizon net neutrality challenge

An appeals court Monday dismissed Verizon’s challenge of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s December net neutrality ruling, calling it premature.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia noted in its decision that the FCC’s net neutrality order is a rule-making document subject to judicial review once it is published in the Federal Register. The panel said that the appeal’s “prematurity is incurable.”
Verizon will refile the lawsuit once the FCC’s net neutrality order is published in the Federal Register, said Ed McFadden, a Verizon spokesman. The FCC’s guidance about the timing of appeals to the net neutrality order was unclear, and Verizon filed the lawsuit to protect its ability to challenge the rules, he said.
The federal register is the official U.S. government publication for agency rules.
The appeals court also stuck down an appeal by mobile provider MetroPCS on the same grounds.
In its December ruling, the FCC voted to prohibit broadband service providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web content and applications. As expected, the ruling unleashed protests from some service providers, although AT&T and Comcast said they could live with the rules.
Verizon appealed the FCC ruling on Jan. 20. The company argued that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate broadband.
“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself,” said Michael Glover, Verizon’s senior vice president and deputy general counsel, in a statement accompanying the challenge.
Backers of the net neutrality ruling Monday hailed the appeals court’s decision.
“This is hardly surprising,” said a statement from Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of the Media Access Project. “Verizon tried to game the system by attempting to challenge the FCC’s open Internet decision prior to its official release. … The future of the Internet is too important for such legal shenanigans. Notwithstanding Verizon’s ploy, this case will be heard in the right court, at the right time.”

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