Media Reform Group Sues FCC Over New Net Neutrality Rules

Verizon is expected to mount its own legal challenge to the open internet regulations

The media reform group Free Press Wednesday filed suit in a Boston federal court challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s newly enacted net neutrality rules.

The new rules were published in the Federal Register last week, which opened the door to lawsuits.

Also read: FCC Finalizes Net Neutrality Rules; Sets Start Date of Nov. 20

Agreed to in December 2010 and set to go into effect Nov. 20, the regulations represent the FCC’s effort to maintain unfettered consumer access to the net, barring internet Service Providers (ISPs) from jiggering speeds or blocking applications.

Free Press, based in Western Massachusetts, says it will challenge the “arbitrary nature of rule provisions” that offer less protection for mobile wireless internet access than for wired connections.

“When the FCC first proposed the Open internet rules, they came with the understanding that there is only one internet, no matter how people choose to reach it,” Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood said in a statement. “The final rules provide some basic protections for consumers, but do not deliver on the promise to preserve openness for mobile internet access. They fail to protect wireless users from discrimination, and they let mobile providers block innovative applications with impunity.

According to Wood, Free Press intends to challenge the FCC’s “arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless Internet access. The disparity that the FCC’s rules create is unjust and unjustified.”  Free Press says the rules are especially problematic because of the increasing popularity of wireless, along with its increasing importance for younger demographics and diverse populations who rely on mobile devices as their primary means for getting online.

Meanwhile, Verizon is expected to mount another legal challenge of the rules soon. The major ISP’s first attempt last spring was stymied when the federal appeals court in Washington D.C. ruled that no suits could be filed until the rules had been published in the Federal Register. 

Republicans in the House of Representatives have excoriated the new provisions and pledged to overturn them. They face an uphill battle, however, as the Senate is controlled by Democrats, the bulk of whom support the FCC's moves.