FCC tries to block Verizon, MetroPCS net neutrality challenges

The FCC asked a federal appeals court to toss out recent lawsuits brought by Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) that challenge the FCC's net neutrality rules, arguing that the companies filed their lawsuits too soon. 

In its filing, which rests on a technical reading of the law, the FCC said that Verizon and MetroPCS sued to block the FCC's regulations for wireless and wired networks before the rules were published in the Federal Register. Since the two companies filed their appeals before the rules were even published, the appeals are "fatally premature and must be dismissed," the FCC told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The FCC did not address the merits of the companies' claims.

Additionally, the FCC also challenged whether the D.C. Circuit should be the proper venue to hear the case. The venue could be a critical element in the legal battles to come, since the D.C. Circuit is the same court that in April struck down the FCC's authority to sanction Comcast for blocking subscribers from using a file-sharing service.

In its initial filing, Verizon argued that the agency's net neutrality rules retroactively modified its wireless spectrum licenses in ways that did not exist when the licenses were granted, which would turn the whole dispute into one over licenses. Such a position could allow the companies to file suit based on the day the rules were released, instead of when they are published in the Federal Register. However, the FCC argued that such a rule only applies to individual licensing decisions and not to a rulemaking that affects all spectrum license holders.

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Wired article

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