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Net Neutrality Lawsuits Consolidated, FCC Asks For Dismissal

October 7, 2011

Verizon Communication´s lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission´s (FCC) net neutrality rules was consolidated with six other suits into one case to go before the US Appeals Court in Washington on Thursday.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which ordered the move, said selecting the Washington court was a random decision.

The move comes after the FCC moved to have Verizon´s lawsuit dismissed, challenging it on jurisdictional grounds. The US Court of Appeals in Washington DC has “exclusive jurisdiction over FCC decisions that modify individual radio licenses,” maintained the FCC in an official filing. It said because its net neutrality rules didn´t modify radio licenses, the appeal should be dismissed, the FCC argued.

Verizon´s move to file the lawsuit came after the FCC officially published the net neutrality rules in the Federal Register last month. The rules, adopted last December, are set to take effect on November 20, barring any action to stop them. Verizon previously sued the FCC over the rules, but the case was dismissed in April because the rules had not been officially published at that time.

Verizon sued last week to overturn the open-Internet rules, arguing the FCC lacks authority to regulate how companies provide Internet service.

“The FCC is in for a rough legal battle given the past history of net neutrality in the D.C. circuit,” Jeffrey Silva, an analyst at Medley Global Advisors, told Reuters.

The same appeals court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast from blocking applications on its network that hogged bandwidth, the move that prompted the FCC to adopt the net neutrality rules in the first place.

“The FCC stands ready to defend its open Internet order in any court of appeals,” agency spokesman Neil Grace told Reuters on Thursday.

The rules are meant to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing Internet usage to homes and businesses. Net neutrality supporters say big providers could otherwise discriminate against competitors. But, Internet providers say they need to be able to manage their networks for all users.

Public interest groups have called the rules too weak, saying the FCC was swayed by big industry players including AT&T and Comcast.

Gigi Sohn, the president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, which supports the net neutrality rules, said that had all seven cases gone to the individual courts, the FCC would have had a greater chance of getting a favorable decision, giving it grounds to bring the issue before the US Supreme Court.

“It would have been more attractive to the Supreme Court,” to have two appeals courts with opposite rulings, she said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Tom Schoenberg.

The FCC, however, remains confident.

“We look forward to defending our open Internet framework in court. This strong and balanced framework has brought certainty and predictability, stimulating investment across the broadband economy,” Grace told PC Magazine. “Verizon’s legal challenge is not only misguided; it threatens to destabilize an important and growing part of our economy at a critical time.”

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Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports