Federal appeals court readies to hear Verizon, MetroPCS net-neutrality challenges
The first batch of arguments in a Verizon-led (NYSE: VZ) challenge to federal open-Internet rules are due to a federal appeals court this summer, court papers indicate.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week released brief-filing deadlines in the case stemming from petitions for administrative review filed by Verizon, MetroPCS Communications (NYSE: PCS) and the Washington-based public-interest group Free Press.
The parties are challenging the December 2010 order by the Federal Communications Commission that set forth so-called net-neutrality rules, the five-member commission's aim at keeping the Internet "free and open."
The Open Internet rule, since taking effect in November 2011, bars wireline and wireless service providers from blocking consumers' access to lawful content. The rule also, among other provisions, requires broadband providers to publicly disclose "accurate information" on their network management practices and performance.
The D.C. Circuit's per curiam order sets a July 2 deadline for initial briefs in the consolidated case: Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 11-1355, Fed. Cir. (Washington). The deadline for final briefs in the matter is Nov. 21.
Verizon, in its challenge filed in September 2011, and MetroPCS, in a filing the following month, argued separately that the FCC overstepped its statutory authority in issuing its Open Internet order.
The companies, further, argued the order is "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion," under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA: 5 U.S.C. §§ 500 et seq.), which sets requirements for rulemaking by federal agencies.
Meanwhile, Free Press, a public interest group, challenged the order in the Boston-based First Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the FCC order outlines disparate rules for wireline and wireless Internet providers.
"Petitioners seek review of the FCC's decision to adopt one set of rules for broadband access via mobile platforms and a different set of rules for broadband access via fixed platforms," the group's petition reads.
The court's briefing order release came on the heels of an FCC announcement Tuesday detailing membership of the net-neutrality oversight panel created by the commission's controversial Open Internet order.
The FCC's 21-member Open Internet Advisory Committee (OIAC) is tasked with evaluating the effects of the FCC's Open Internet rules and providing the commission recommendations for preserving an open Internet.
The FCC Open Internet Rule and Order was published in the Federal Register in September 2011 (76 FR 59192).
At an April congressional hearing, executives from Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZN), online content company IAC/InterActiveCorp (Nasdaq:IACI) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT), urged senators to safeguard the digital-services marketplace.
Supporting principles of net-neutrality, IAC Chairman Barry Diller said Congress "must be vigilant that the rules of the game favor entry and innovation," in his testimony before the Democratic-led Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
"If properly nurtured, the marketplace will develop multiple forms of distribution and many new competitors. This will in turn stimulate new sources of content and creativity that will give a multitude of options to consumers, while enriching our culture and advancing our economy," Diller told lawmakers.
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