Advocacy Group Drops Challenge To Neutrality Rules
When the Federal Communications Commission passed neutrality rules in 2010, the move didn't seem to leave anyone completely happy.
Broadband providers said the FCC has no business regulating the Web at all. On the other hand, some consumer advocates said the rules didn't go far enough.
The regulations themselves prohibit all carriers from blocking or degrading traffic. The rules also ban wireline providers -- but not wireless ones -- from engaging in unreasonable discrimination.
Telecoms as well as an advocacy group filed lawsuits last year, after the rules were published in the Federal Register. Verizon and MetroPCS brought challenges in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- which has already ruled against the FCC once on a neutrality matter. The telecoms argue that the FCC lacks authority to regulate broadband providers.
The advocacy group Free Press, which also sued, contended that the FCC acted arbitrarily in adopting different standards for wireless and wireline providers. Free Press brought its challenge in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston -- perceived as less hostile to neutrality regulations generally than the appellate court in Washington -- but the case was quickly transferred to Washington.
This week, Free Press withdrew its lawsuit rather than file a brief in the case. The group still isn't thrilled with the neutrality regulations, but decided to drop the matter rather than make more work for the FCC.
"We just decided to use our resources elsewhere," says Matt Wood, policy director of Free Press. He adds that the group sued "to improve the rules, not to attack the FCC's authority or basis for them."
Even without Free Press's lawsuit, the FCC is facing a considerable challenge in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which ruled in a case involving Comcast that the FCC lacks jurisdiction over broadband. In that matter, the court vacated an FCC order sanctioning Comcast for violating neutrality principles by throttling peer-to-peer traffic.
This week Verizon and MetroPCS filed papers asking the appeals court to vacate the rules. They argue that the FCC had no authority to enact neutrality rules. The appellate brief also contends that the regulations violate the telecom's free speech rights because they "strip providers of control over which speech they transmit and how they transmit it, and they compel the carriage of others’ speech."