Federal Court Quashes ‘Open Internet’ Lawsuit

The court dismissed the lawsuit because the FCC yet to publish the "Open Internet" rules in the Federal Register.
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A federal court dismissed a lawsuit filed by two telecommunications companies seeking to prevent the U.S. government from implementing its controversial “Open Internet” rules—better known as “net neutrality”—on the wireless sector.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia based its April 4, 2011 decision to dismiss the lawsuit (Case No. 11-1014) on the fact that the Federal Communications Commission has not yet published the Open Internet rules in the Federal Register. In addition, according to federal procedure, the rule cannot be published on the Federal Register until the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act are met.

That process includes a 60-day comment period at the FCC, which ends April 10, 2011. When that period ends, the comments will be reviewed and a paperwork reduction act application will be forwarded to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which then puts that out for comment for 30 days. After OMB reviews and clears the comments, the regulation can be published in the Federal Register.

The process creates a situation where the plaintiffs—Verizon Communications Inc, a global broadband and telecommunications company and MetroPCS, a mobile phone service provider—can file another lawsuit.

However, because a lawsuit “is a legal matter,” MetroPCS, “can’t provide comment or additional information at this time,” including if the company will again seek legal action, said Drew Crowell, a spokes man for MetroPCS. Verizon did not return requests for comment.

On Dec. 21, 2010, the Open Internet rules were approved in 3-2 split vote by the FCC’s commissioners. The regulation requires Internet providers to ensure “transparency” regarding the “network management practices, performance and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services.” Providers are also required to “not block lawful content,” and “applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephone services,” and “shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.”

The FFC is “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,” said Robert Kenny, FCC spokesman. “The commission’s policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America,” he said.