Verizon drags FCC into court over network neutrality


Telco giant Verizon has decided that the FCC’s December adoption of rules designed to promote an open internet without resorting to Title II authority still goes too far, and is heading for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The move caused amazement among the watchdog community, who said that what they consider the lukewarm FCC provisions are remarkably similar to the voluntary proposal that Verizon and Google offered last year before the FCC ruling.

Michael E. Glover, Verizon SVP and deputy general counsel said, “Verizon has long been committed to preserving an open Internet and meeting the needs of our customers.  We have worked extensively with all players in the Internet and communications space to shape policies that ensure an open Internet and encourage investment, innovation and collaboration with content providers and others to meet the needs of consumers.”

Glover continued, “Today’s filing is the result of a careful review of the FCC’s order. 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.”

Republican Commerce/Communications leaders Fred Upton (R-MI), Greg Walden (R-OR) and Lee Terry (R-NE) praised the move. In a joint statement, they said, “We welcome the decision by Verizon, and hopefully others, to demand their day in court to block the FCC’s misguided attempt to regulate the Internet. At stake is not just innovation and economic growth, although those concerns are vital. Equally important is putting a check on an FCC that is acting beyond the authority granted to it by Congress. Between our legislative efforts and this court action, we will put the FCC back on firmer ground.”

Democrats were equally dismayed by the move. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, “Verizon has the legal right to do this, but we are disappointed that they filed suit. 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.”

Timothy Karr of Free Press wrote on Huffington Post, “Ironically, the rule in question, adopted by the FCC just last month, was modeled after a vastly unpopular “policy framework” drafted by Verizon and Google attorneys in August… Apparently, the company wants us to believe that its devotion to the open Internet is absolute, and that it simply doesn’t require pesky rules to stay honest.”

He added, “In retrospect, it’s crazy to think that this spin still finds an audience in Washington. But Verizon is actually arguing that Internet access, an essential pathway to economic growth and opportunity for millions of people, should be left entirely to its discretion, free from any checks against the type of blocking and discrimination that many Internet providers have talked about implementing.”

He concluded that Verizon is motivated by profit, and that the rules are necessary to allow them to pursue that goal without the temptation of steamrolling citizens and competitors on the way.

RBR-TVBR observation: Congress failed to do anything about network neutrality. The FCC’s proposal invoking limited Title II power was seen as too weak and too strong, depending on the viewer’s vantage point. The watered down version is again seen as too weak and too strong.

At least the FCC approved something, even if it was on a party-line split decision. The fact that neither side likes it is at least an indication that Genachowski did at least find middle ground, even if he’s the only person on the planet who feels comfortable there. But now it’s going to court. This is why people wonder if it is possible to ever get anything accomplished in Washington.