Verizon Sues to Invalidate Open Internet Order; Follows in Comcast’s Footsteps

FCC, Net Neutrality January 24th, 2011


Washington, January 24, 2011 – Verizon Communications filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s recent Open Internet Order.

Verizon argued that the FCC does not have the authority to implement the new rules. The Order, which was handed down from the Commission but has not yet taken effect provides three guidelines by which internet service providers (ISPs) must abide in their offerings to consumers.  First, the Commission said, ISPs must provide services in a transparent manner by disclosing their network management practices and performance characteristics.  Second, network providers must not block lawful content from their customers, and third, providers may not unreasonably discriminate by prioritizing certain network traffic without sufficient reason.

Verizon based the appeal on its existing spectrum license, which it contends would be modified by the Open Internet Order.  That order, the company alleges, would implement changes that are in excess of the FCC’s authority and are contrary to the company’s constitutional rights.  The appeal does not state which constitutional rights would be violated by enforcement of the Order.

Verizon’s appeal harkens to Comcast’s allegations in its successful suit against the FCC, which was decided last year.  In Comcast v. FCC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruled in favor of Comcast when it challenged the FCC’s authority to enforce its net neutrality principles against the company.

Comcast also promises to weigh heavily on Verizon’s appeal – or so Verizon apparently hopes.  The company seems to have begun to draw the two cases together from the outset.  Verizon not only filed its appeal with the D.C. Circuit, but then moved to assign the case to the same panel of judges that decided Comcast. Additionally, Verizon’s lead attorney, Helgi Walker of D.C. law firm, Wiley Rein LLP, represented Comcast in its case against the Commission.

“Verizon has the legal right to do this, but we are disappointed that they filed suit,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee in a joint statement.  Both legislators are supporters of net neutrality and have defended the Open Internet Order.

“We support the FCC’s efforts because they will protect consumers and provide companies with the certainty they need to make investments in our growing digital economy.”

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