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Verizon v. FCC: Verizon’s new lawsuit may put FCC’s net neutrality protections at risk

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Verizon has sued the Federal Communications Commission to overturn the agency’s net-neutrality rules.

The wireless industry giant has filed suit in a California federal court claiming the rules are unconstitutional because they prohibit it from using its dominant position to throttle online content.

Verizon contends the FCC’s regulation violates the constitutional rights of internet service providers to freely determine which content is worthy of prioritization and which is not. 

The Federal Communications Regulatory Commission (FCC) is the executive branch agency charged with overseeing the nation’s communications infrastructure and oversees internet providers, cable TV and telephone companies, phone carriers and mobile phone companies. 

Verizon filed suit Friday, saying the rules violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Federal Records Act.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction blocking the FCC from enforcing the rules, a preliminary determination that the rules do not constitute an unlawful interference with interstate commerce, and an injunction against enforcing the net neutrality rules as set forth in a rule that the FCC finalized in November.

“The FCC’s new rules have been issued without public input or discussion, and were written in an opaque and ambiguous manner,” the lawsuit reads.

“Verizon’s claim is that it can disregard its obligations under the Commerce and Federal Records Acts to provide consumers with meaningful input on the agency rules and still be able to assert an unlawful interconnection burden.”

The new net neutrality regulations require internet providers to treat all online content equally, except for traffic that is harmful to competition. 

They also require internet service to treat content equally and not block it if it serves legitimate online services, like streaming video, as long as it is being offered to consumers in an open manner. 

Critics say the rules have already stifled investment in broadband and have led to internet providers losing market share to companies such as Netflix, Google and Facebook.

Verify Internet, a nonprofit that advocates for net neutrality, has called the new net-net neutrality rules “deadly” and “a major victory for consumers.” 

“This is a win for consumers, but also for the FCC,” said Justin Wolfers, senior vice president of policy and legal at the nonprofit.

“The agency’s new rule is an enormous step forward for the internet, but we still have a long way to go before consumers are able to use the internet as they see fit, without fear of ISPs being able to discriminate against them or slow down their access.” 

The rules were set to go into effect on Feb. 21, but were delayed last month after a federal appeals court struck down the rules. 

On Wednesday, the FCC approved a draft of the rule that was still being worked on.

The agency is expected to release a final rule by the end of the year.