FCC Says Data-Roaming Decision Boosts Neutrality Regs

Broadband-Globe-AA recent decision upholding new wireless regulations bolsters the case for net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission argues in new court papers.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last month rebuffed Verizon's challenge to the FCC's decision requiring large wireless companies to offer their data networks to regional carriers on commercially reasonable terms. Verizon had argued that the FCC's April 2011 data-roaming rules unlawfully imposed common-carrier obligations on the company.

The appeals court definitively rejected that argument. "Although the rule bears some marks of common carriage, we defer to the Commission’s determination that the rule imposes no common carrier obligations on mobile-internet providers," the judges wrote.

The appellate panel also said the data-roaming regulations were authorized by the FCC's authority to regulate the use of spectrum.

The FCC now says that the appellate court's reasoning applies equally to the neutrality rules. The decision "confirms that the FCC has authority ... to establish open Internet rules applicable to wireless mobile broadband providers," the FCC wrote in papers filed with the court on Friday.

The FCC's legal papers characterize neutrality regulations as "basic 'rules of the road' establishing that wireless broadband Internet access providers may not block lawful data traffic in using their FCC-licensed spectrum."

The open Internet regulations ban all broadband providers -- wireline as well as wireless -- from blocking sites or competing applications. The rules, which took effect in 2011, also prohibit wireline providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination.

Verizon and MetroPCS are challenging the rules in court, arguing that the FCC exceeded its authority. The telecoms say that the Court of Appeals already ruled in 2009, in a case involving Comcast, that the FCC lacks authority to regulate broadband. In the Comcast matter, the appeals court vacated an order sanctioning the Internet service provider for violating the 2005 neutrality principles by throttling peer-to-peer traffic.

The telecoms say in papers filed late last year that the recent data-roaming decision doesn't weaken their argument against neutrality rules.



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