FCC sued over new net-neutrality rules

Thursday, September 29, 2011

NEW YORK — A media and Internet advocacy group sued the federal government yesterday over its new rules covering Internet traffic, saying they don’t protect wireless traffic from interference by telephone companies.

The group Free Press filed its challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “net neutrality” rules in federal court in Boston.

The rules were adopted in December and take effect in two months. They prohibit Internet service providers from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services.

They give greater leeway to cellphone companies to manage data traffic because wireless systems are more easily overwhelmed. But Free Press objects to that distinction.

“There is no evidence in the record to justify this arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access,” Free Press policy director Matt Wood said in a statement.

A spokesman for the FCC did not respond to a request for comment.

Two cell-phone companies, Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS Communications Inc., sued over the new rules early this year, saying the FCC lacks the authority to regulate Internet traffic. Those lawsuits were thrown out by an appeals court that said they were filed prematurely. They could be refiled now that the rules have been published in the Federal Register.

The FCC adopted the so-called “open Internet” rules because an earlier attempt to sanction Comcast Corp. for interfering with BitTorrent file-sharing traffic was overruled by a court. The FCC had based its action on broad net-neutrality principles it first established in 2005.

“Net neutrality” has been a point of contention since then, with consumer groups and Democrats saying the power of Internet service providers needs to be curbed, while Republicans and cable and phone companies say freedom from regulation will encourage investment.

Related: Why net-neutrality rules matter, Christian Science Monitor

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