Net neutrality rules will "advance broadband investment" and "ensure that wireless licensees act in the public interest," the Federal Communications Commission argues in new court papers.
The FCC is defending its neutrality rules from a court challenge by Verizon and MetroPCS. The telecoms are asking the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to rule the FCC lacks authority to regulate broadband service.
The neutrality rules, passed by the FCC in 2010, prohibit all broadband providers -- wireline as well as wireless -- from blocking sites or competing applications. The regulations, which took effect last year, also ban wireline providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination.
Verizon -- and MetroPCS, which joined in Verizon's brief -- argue that the Court of Appeals already ruled in a case involving Comcast that the FCC lacks authority to regulate broadband -- mainly because the FCC classified broadband as an "information" service and not a telecommunications service.
But the FCC counters in its 121-page brief that Congress granted the agency authority to protect the openness of the Web. "The Internet developed and flourished in an environment of openness,"the FCC writes. "Congress assigned the FCC -- in which it vested policy-making authority over all communication by wire and radio -- a central role in protecting Internet openness and the resulting investment in broadband facilities."
The FCC says the rules are necessary to prevent Internet service providers from blocking sites or applications. "The record before the Commission showed multiple incidents of broadband providers interfering with their customers’ ability to use Internet services, from file sharing services to Internet-based telephony," the FCC argues.
The commission adds that broadband providers have incentives to prevent customers from accessing sites. "The law does not demand the Commission to wait until harm has already occurred," the government argues.
The FCC also contends it's empowered to issue neutrality rules on the grounds that it can craft regulations to prohibit cable companies from engaging in unfair competition. The agency argues that the neutrality rules will prevent cable companies (which also provide broadband service) from unfairly stifling online video startups.
"Internet-based distribution is becoming essential to the success of video distributors," the FCC says. "Cable companies have both the incentive and ability to interfere with competition from these new rivals."