Judges Dismiss Lawsuit Against FCC by Verizon, MetroPCS

The Federal Communications Commission won dismissal of lawsuits in which Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and MetroPCS Communications Inc. sought to overturn the agency’s rules for managing Web traffic.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today dismissed the cases after the FCC argued they were premature. The rules, adopted in December, haven’t been published in the Federal Register, a step needed before they take effect.

The so-called net neutrality rules would bar Internet service providers including Verizon and AT&T Inc. (T) from unfairly blocking or slowing Web content sent to homes and businesses. Backers said the rules were needed to prevent abuses, while the service providers said the regulations were unnecessary.

“Verizon attempted to game the system by attempting to challenge the FCC’s open Internet decision prior to its official release,” Andrew Jay Schwartzman, policy director of Washington-based public-interest law firm Media Access Project, said in an e-mailed statement. “It was a blatant effort to steer the case to a sympathetic court, but the judges unanimously agreed that the appeal’s prematurity was incurable.”

New York-based Verizon intends to file another appeal after the FCC order is published in the register, Ed McFadden, a company spokesman in Washington, said in an interview. Verizon filed in January “to protect our rights” amid “unclear” rules for timing appeals, he said.

Drew Crowell, a spokesman for Richardson, Texas-based MetroPCS, declined to comment.

‘Premature’ Challenge

“We are 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,” Robert Kenny, an FCC spokesman, said in an interview. “The commission’s policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America.”

Verizon increased 14 cents in New York Stock Exchange trading today to close at $38.61. MetroPCS decreased 16 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $16.33 in New York Stock Exchange trading.

The cases are Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, 11-1014, MetroPCS Communications Inc. (PCS) v. Federal Communications Commission, 11-1016 U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington).

To contact the reporters on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net; Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net; Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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