Verizon Communications and MetroPCS, fierce rivals in the wireless world, have teamed up to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s open access rules, noting in a lawsuit that the FCC stepped beyond in a recent decision regarding broadband service providers.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., Verizon and MetroPCS note that FCC requirements that broadband service providers have to carry all data traffic regardless of origin goes against the 1996 Communications Act as well as First Amendment rights that prevent the operators from controlling what is transferred over their private networks. The lawsuit cites a previous ruling in a case against Comcast where an appeals court overturned the FCC’s attempts to impose similar regulations on the company’s broadband service.
“Rather than proceeding with caution in light of Comcast, the FCC unilaterally adopted rules that go even farther than its prior action and impose dramatic new restrictions on broadband Internet access service providers,” the lawsuit claims. “The Order imposes classic common-carrier obligations on broadband providers, requiring them to carry the traffic of all ‘edge providers’ and even wading into price controls by setting a uniform, nondiscriminatory price of zero for such carriage. This regulation of Internet access service is expressly prohibited by the Communications Act.”
MetroPCS was singled out in early 2011 by open-access proponents that claimed the carrier’s decision to cap access to data transmission from sites outside of those selected by MetroPCS is a form of blocking Internet content.
Open access requirements are seen as critical to wireless networks that unlike wired broadband infrastructure have a more constricted transport channel due to spectrum constraints. The lawsuit contends that wireless broadband services are an “information service” and thus fall under the provisions of a “private mobile service” and not under the same regulatory conditions as a “commercial mobile service.”
“The [FCC] explained that these classifications were ‘consistent with Congressional intent to maintain a regime in which information service providers are not subject to Title II regulations as common carriers,’ … and repeatedly found that Internet service should exist in ‘a minimal regulatory environment’ to ‘promote innovative and efficient communication.’”
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