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Free Press files lawsuit on FCC's net neutrality rules

The rules shouldn't separate mobile broadband from wired broadband, the media reform group argues

Advocacy group Free Press has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, with the group arguing the new regulations are too weak.

The FCC's rules, approved by the commission last December, treat wireline and mobile broadband providers differently, but they shouldn't, said Free Press, a left-leaning media reform group. Free Press filed the lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, just days after the FCC published the rules in the Federal Register, the last step before they go into effect.

The regulations, sometimes called open Internet rules, bar wireline broadband providers from "unreasonable discrimination" against Web traffic, but don't have the same prohibition for mobile broadband providers. The rules prohibit mobile providers from blocking voice and other applications that compete with their services, but don't prohibit them from blocking other applications.

"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."

Free Press will fight to make the rules stronger, because there's no evidence in the FCC's record to justify this "arbitrary distinction" between wired and mobile broadband, Wood added. "The disparity that the FCC's rules create is unjust and unjustified," he said. "And it's 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."

An FCC spokesman didn't have an immediate comment on the Free Press lawsuit.

The FCC will likely see more challenges from companies on the other side of the net neutrality debate from Free Press.

Earlier this year, Verizon Communications and MetroPCS filed challenges to the rules, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the lawsuits because the companies filed before the rules were published in the Federal Register. Verizon, which has said it plans to refile a lawsuit, has argued that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate broadband.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is [email protected]


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