When the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules were published last Friday, everyone in Washington expected that the first lawsuit out of the box would be filed by Verizon and maybe MetroPCS, both of which challenged the rules only a few months after the commission passed them last December. Ironically, it turned out to be Free Press, a liberal public interest group that has advocated for net neutrality, that filed the first new suit against the rules.
In its suit, filed in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, Free Press alleges that the FCC's rules, which prevent Internet services from blocking or slowing down legal content, are "arbitrary and capricious" because they're tougher on wired services than they are on wireless. Under the FCC's rules, mobile providers can't block voice or other data services that compete with their services, but they can block other applications.
"They let mobile providers block innovative applications with impunity," said Matt Wood, policy director for Free Press.
Verizon is expected to file its own suit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It will claim that the FCC lacked the authority to set rules.
With both sides of the net neutrality debate finding something not to like about the rules, the courts could end up remanding the rules back to the FCC. That would be OK with Free Press.
"We'd be happy for them to go back to the drawing board," said Dave Saldana, a spokesman for Free Press.