D.C. Circuit Hears Arguments in Verizon Net Neutrality Case

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 10, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Verizon's case against the FCC's net neutrality rules is finally reaching a head as the D.C. Circuit began hearing oral arguments on Monday.

The Verizon v. F.C.C. case is slated to pit old and new values regarding the Internet against one another, with The New York Times hailing it as "a heavyweight championship of the technology world."

This case may not be everyone's Ali-Frazier, but it will set down some instructive precedent on how to treat Internet service providers.

Net Neutrality

Verizon's beef with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality rules center around the question of whether the FCC has the authority to regulate broadband Internet providers.

The FCC published its net neutrality rules in 2011, barring content-discriminatory practices by broadband providers and seeking to put an end to paid prioritization of the Internet.

While companies like Verizon challenged these rules from an industry standpoint, a media-reform group called Free Press challenged the FCC rules under the theory that arbitrarily gave a pass to wireless providers.

Never left out of these discussions, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) blasted the FCC's regulations in 2010 for containing too many loopholes, allowing entertainment industry copyright goons to use the ISPs as their own private enforcers.

What Does the FCC Think?

Still stinging from its loss in the Internet regulation arena to Comcast in 2010, the FCC is committed to stop broadband providers from using business models that throttle speeds based on the type of content.

Gene Kimmelman, director at the D.C. think tank New America Foundation, thinks a loss in this case would have the FCC "start[ing] from scratch to re-evaluate how they can use the authority remaining to prevent discriminatory practices," reports The Wall Street Journal.

The FCC seeks to distinguish this case from past failed attempts to regulate broadcast media, arguing that unlike TV or radio, ISPs have no protected right to editorial discretion.

Part of the confusion lies with the ham-handed way the law has treated ISPs as both utilities and broadcasters. Perhaps the D.C. Circuit can set the record straight on how future lawmakers and agencies should view companies like Verizon.

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