* Court consolidates challenges to D.C. appeals court
* D.C. circuit seen toughest for FCC
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Oct 6 Challenges to new U.S.
Internet traffic rules will be heard in the federal appeals
court in Washington D.C., a court that has previously been
skeptical of the Federal Communications Commission's
A judicial panel that manages multidistrict litigation
said on Thursday it had randomly selected the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to hear appeals of
the FCC's "Open Internet" order.
The same appeals 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 rulemaking.
"The FCC is in for a rough legal battle given the past
history of net neutrality in the D.C. circuit," said Medley
Global Advisors analyst Jeffrey Silva.
The FCC has repeatedly expressed confidence in the legal
foundation backing the rules which are due to take effect Nov.
20. "The FCC stands ready to defend its open Internet order in
any court of appeals," an agency spokesman said on Thursday.
Adopted by a divided FCC last December, the Internet rules
seek to balance the interests of consumers and content
providers with those who sell access to the Web and often
supply their own content.
The rules forbid broadband providers from blocking legal
content while leaving flexibility for providers to manage their
Backers of net neutrality rules say big providers could
otherwise use their gatekeeper role to discriminate against
competitors. Internet providers say they need to be able to
manage their networks for all users.
Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) filed suit last week,
asking the D.C. appeals court to have the rules thrown out,
saying the FCC was "arbitrary" and "capricious" and acted
beyond its statutory authority in imposing the rules.
Public interest groups have criticized the rules as too
weak, saying the FCC was swayed by big industry players
including AT&T Inc (T.N) and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O).
Free Press filed suit last week in the First Circuit Court
of Appeals in Boston, challenging provisions in the order that
give wireless broadband providers more discretion in managing
their networks. [ID:nS1E78R1KX]
Other suits were also filed in the second, third, fourth
and ninth circuits.
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin in Washington D.C.; Editing by Tim