* Court tosses lawsuits over Internet traffic rules
* More suits expected to come after publication of rules
* US House expected to vote this week on rules disapproval
* White House would recommend veto of resolution
(Adds statement from White House)
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, April 4 A U.S. federal appeals
court threw out challenges to controversial Internet traffic
rules adopted in December, saying the complaints were filed too
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit granted on Monday the Federal Communications
Commission's motions to dismiss as premature lawsuits filed by
Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and MetroPCS Communications
Both companies accused the FCC of overstepping its
authority in creating new rules aimed at regulating Internet
The FCC 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.
The rule aimed to ensure consumer access to content such as
huge movie files while letting Internet providers manage their
networks to prevent congestion.
FCC rulemakings are traditionally challenged during a
60-day window after the rules are published in the Federal
Verizon, the majority owner of the largest U.S. wireless
service, and fifth-ranked MetroPCS, argued that the rules would
modify wireless licenses they hold in an attempt to anchor
their challenges in a venue favorable to them.
Disputes over airwaves licenses are only heard by the D.C.
appeals court. 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
But the court ruled to uphold the traditional process for
"The challenged order is a rulemaking document subject to
publication in the Federal Register, and is not a licensing
decision," the D.C. Circuit said on Monday.
The rules, which provided additional flexibility for
wireless providers, have still not been published in the
"The prematurity is incurable," the court said.
MetroPCS declined to comment on any legal matters.
Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said the FCC's rules
governing the timing of an appeal were unclear, so their early
filing was simply to protect their right to appeal.
He viewed the court's decision as just part of the
"When we did that initial filing, we made it clear that we
intended to file a second time when the order was published
in the Federal Register," McFadden said in a phone interview.
Aparna Sridhar, policy counsel for the public interest
group Free Press, said the Verizon and MetroPCS were likely not
finished trying to undo the FCC's policy.
"But we hope that this ruling sends a signal to those
companies that their arguments will face close scrutiny, no
matter how novel or clever they appear to be," she said.
Rural telecom companies, mid-sized phone companies, content
providers and public interest groups are among those also
identified by attorneys and analysts as likely to take the FCC
to court once the rules are published.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a
resolution of disapproval to overturn the rules this week. The
White House said on Monday that President Barack Obama's
advisers would recommend he veto such a resolution.
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)