Verizon Ready to Sue FCC to Block Net Neutrality Oversight

The FCC wants to regulate Internet service providers as if they were utilities as part of its plan to maintain Net Neutrality, and Verizon is threatening legal action if that happens.

Verizon says it'll fight FCC regulating Net NeutralityVerizon says it'll fight FCC regulating Net Neutrality

Verizon executive vice president and general counsel Randal Milch thinks the FCC's plan to classify ISPs as Title II telecommunication services, which would give the agency far more control over their actions, falls outside the scope of its authority. If the FCC does change how it regulates ISPs, Verizon is ready to file a lawsuit against the agency, and expects other companies will, too.

Instead, Mr. Milch says the FCC should monitor ISPs under section 706 of the Communications Act, which wouldn't offer any more control over companies. There is a taste of irony is Mr. Milch's stance considering Verizon sued the FCC in 2010 for trying to use section 706 to regulate ISPs. It seems section 706 is now more to Verizon's liking.

Verizon isn't keen on the FCC having more power over how ISPs cut streaming deals with content providers even though the company recently said it doesn't have any plans to charge fees for prioritized content passing through its network. Verizon seems to be contradicting itself because it also supports the idea of special highspeed data lanes where it charges a premium to content providers wanting to avoid degraded quality for consumers.

Assuming the FCC does push through Title II control over ISPs, Verizon is ready to go to court and Mr. Milch expects other companies will follow suit. He said,

The ISPs, and perhaps some in the tech industry, will have no choice but to fight the sudden reversal of two decades of settled law. By departing from the judicially sanctioned Section 706 approach, the FCC will have increased both the likelihood – and the likelihood of success – of any legal challenge.

Faced with the choice between regulation under Title II or Section 706, it seems like the latter is now more palatable to Verizon. That likely comes as a small consolation to the other ISPs that were ready to agree to regulation under Section 706 months ago, but with the threat of litigation hanging overhead, those companies may well be wishing Verizon's change of heart had come sooner.