* Says Verizon, MetroPCS filed appeals too early
* Asks court to dismiss their appeals
* FCC seeking to preserve power to regulate Internet
(Adds analysts' comments)
By Sinead Carew and Jasmin Melvin
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Jan 28 The Federal
Communications Commission filed on Friday to dismiss challenges
to its new Internet traffic rules, an agency official said.
A senior FCC official said the agency filed several motions
with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit asking the court to dismiss as premature challenges
from Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and MetroPCS
Communications Inc PCS.N.
"The rules that govern when and how parties may challenge
FCC orders are clear, and Verizon and MetroPCS filed too early
when they challenged the Open Internet order," the senior FCC
official said in an e-mail.
The order, criticized by opponents as a legally shaky
government intrusion into regulating the Internet, would
prevent network operators from blocking lawful content but
still let them ration access to their networks.
At stake is ensuring consumer access to content such as
huge movie files while letting Internet providers manage their
networks to prevent congestion.
Last week Verizon filed a case against the FCC in the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, arguing that the
regulator had overstepped its authority in creating new rules
aimed at regulating Internet traffic. [ID:nN20157175]
Smaller rival MetroPCS followed with its own lawsuit
challenging the new rules. [ID:nN25269174]
Verizon, the majority owner of the largest U.S. wireless
service, and fifth-ranked MetroPCS appear to have attempted to
anchor their challenges in a venue favorable to them by arguing
that the rules would modify their wireless licenses. Such
disputes are sent to the D.C. appeals court. [ID:nN26225867]
The same court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the
authority to stop Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) from blocking
bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network,
spurring the agency's most recent rulemaking effort.
Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, said the
FCC's motions were a "classic move in the dance of
A spokesman for Verizon said the company would respond in
due course, while MetroPCS's spokesman said the company was
assessing the FCC actions and had no comment.
An FCC official had said last week that Verizon appeared to
be premature in filing its appeal as the new rules, which were
adopted in December, had not yet been published in the Federal
FCC rulemakings are traditionally challenged during a
60-day window after the rules are published in the Federal
The FCC may also challenge Verizon and MetroPCS's
characterization of the rules as a license modification.
Medley Global Advisors analyst Jeffrey Silva said to expect
more of this type of legal maneuvering before a court hears the
merits of the appeals.
"This is not unusual. The warring parties have begun to
spar before throwing any hard punches," he said.
Silva added, regardless of how the D.C. Circuit rules on
the FCC's motions, legal challenges to the order are unlikely
In a 3-2 vote on Dec. 21, the FCC highlighted a huge divide
between those who say the Internet should flourish without
regulation and those who say the power of high-speed Internet
providers to discriminate against competitors needs to be
(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Jasmin Melvin in
Washington; Editing by Gary Hill)