FCC Wins One Net Neutrality Fight But Congress is Still Hostile

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has dismissed the case that Verizon Communications filed against the Federal Communications Commission over the agency’s network neutrality rules. The ruling is a win for the FCC, although Verizon (s vz) will likely file suit again using new arguments. And Congress is still on track to make it impossible for the FCC to implement its rules by enforcing its right to repeal the FCC’s rules under what is known as a Congressional Review Act.
But the FCC did get a minor victory when the court decided that Verizon acted too hastily in suing the regulatory agency before it had published its network neutrality rules in the Federal Register. That doesn’t mean Verizon can’t sue after the rules are published, but it does take away the advantage that Verizon sought when it originally filed. The race to sue the FCC is part of a process by which proponents and opponents of the rules preventing ISPs from discriminating against traffic on their networks are angling to land their lawsuit in a court more favorable to their side. The U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, where Verizon had filed had previously taken a dim view of the agency’s authority to implement network neutrality in the past.
The rules, which were released in December, but are still not published in the Federal Register, are also the subject of a hearing today in the House of Representatives’ Committee on Rules. The Rules Committee is holding the hearing ahead of a joint Senate and House of Representative sponsored resolution to repeal the network neutrality rules that the FCC has approved. On the surface the fight appears to be against a regulatory agency overstepping its bounds, but is also a politically inspired attack against an issue favored by President Obama and Democrats. Plus, apparently the Tea Party is against network neutrality.
FCC Spokesman Robert Kenny said of today’s court decision, “We are pleased the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the Commission that Verizon and MetroPCS were premature in challenging the Open Internet framework. The Commission’s policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America.” But this is only the beginning of several fights to come.