Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Verizon asks US court to reject open-Internet rules

NET-NEUTRALITY:The Federal Communications Commission rules bar Internet-service providers from blocking or slowing Web content sent to users

Bloomberg

Verizon Communications Inc has asked a US court to overturn open-Internet rules adopted last month by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), saying the agency lacks authority over how companies provide Web service.

The FCC’s net-neutrality rules would bar Internet-service providers — including Verizon, AT&T Inc and Comcast Corp — from blocking or slowing Web content sent to homes and businesses.

“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself,” Michael Glover, deputy general counsel for New York-based Verizon, said in a statement on Thursday. “We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress.”

Net-neutrality rules have been debated for years. Proponents including technology companies say regulations are needed to keep Internet-service providers from interfering with rivals’ content, while opponents such as telephone and cable companies say rules aren’t needed and may stifle investment.

“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,” three congressional Republicans said in an e-mailed statement.

They included Representative Fred Upton, chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC.

US President Barack Obama on Dec. 21 said he backed the FCC’s rules, which the agency passed that day on a 3-2 party-line vote led by Democrats. Consumer advocacy groups, including Public Knowledge, say the rules don’t adequately protect mobile Web users.

“Consumers should be able to surf the Web without their Internet provider limiting their choices to its preferred sites,” Parul Desai, Washington-based policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in an e-mailed statement. “Verizon’s assertion that these rules create ‘uncertainty’ for consumers just doesn’t hold water.”

Robert Kenny, an FCC spokesman, declined to comment.

Verizon filed the appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The same court ruled in April last year that the FCC lacked jurisdiction over providers of broadband, or high-speed, Internet service, Verizon said in its filing to the court, which the company distributed by e-mail.

“In the order on appeal here, the FCC responds to the court’s decision and again attempts to justify its assertion of regulatory authority,” Verizon said in the filing.

It said Verizon Wireless, the largest US mobile phone service provider, is affected by the net-neutrality order.

In the April ruling, judges said the FCC lacked authority to censure Comcast for interfering with subscribers’ Web traffic.

During the Dec. 21 vote, four of five FCC commissioners questioned the rules’ legal foundation.

Two Democrats said the agency could repair damage from the April decision by basing its rules on parts of the telecommunications law that regulate telephone networks.

The FCC decided not to make such an assertion after considering it for months. Companies said that move may lead to federal regulation of Internet rates.

The two Republican commissioners called the April court defeat a message to wait for authorization from Congress.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, appointed by Obama, said in a Dec. 1 speech that the rules rest on “a sound legal basis.”

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