You can say that the entire goal of Julius Genachowski’s pretend plan for net neutrality was to devise something that the telecoms could live with, while allowing him to make a defense that the Obama Administration fulfilled its campaign promise of Internet freedom. If they didn’t care about being taken to court over their plans, they would have written something far more air-tight. So instead, they came up with this heavily compromised approach. And Verizon sued them anyway.
Verizon Communications Inc. on Thursday filed a legal challenge to new federal regulations that prohibit broadband providers from interfering with Internet traffic flowing over their networks.
In a filing in federal appeals court in the District of Columbia, Verizon argues that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its authority in adopting the new “network neutrality” rules last month.
The rules prohibit phone and cable companies from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services — including online calling services such as Skype and Internet video services such as Netflix, which in many cases compete with services sold by companies like Verizon.
That’s not really a good analysis of the proposal. The FCC plan permits discrimination by allowing a “reasonable network management” standard that could easily be used to give preferential treatment to certain content. It makes no explicit rule on “paid prioritization,” a concept which completely undermines net neutrality. And it only mandates “transparency” on wireless services, rather than anti-discrimination.
The lawsuit comes out of the FCC’s reluctance to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. That opened up any rulemaking to legal challenge. These rules were never on solid footing as a result. So with this lawsuit, the FCC is really reaping what they sowed here. Never mind that the Verizon claim that the FCC is violating their Constitutional rights is kind of nutty. The FCC had the opportunity to make their rules legally sound, and they avoided it – ironically, to please the telecoms. And the telecoms rewarded the FCC by suing them.
Amusingly, Verizon wants the same judges who invalidated a previous FCC ruling to hear this case.
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.”
This is another example of Obama Administration agencies trying to please everyone and instead pleasing no one.