The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has dismissed Verizon and MetroPCS's court challenges to the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality rules in that circuit, saying they were premature.
The companies had argued that the FCC's rulemaking was a material change to their licenses, and so could be appealed immediately to the D.C. court, which they did in January.
Opponents of that move, including the Media Access Project, had said it was forum-shopping and should be dismissed.
"The challenged order is a rulemaking document subject to publication in the Federal Register, and is not a licensing decision "with respect to specific parties," the court said.
"This is hardly surprising," said MAP's Andrew Schwartzman. "Verizon attempted to "game the system" by attempting to challenge the FCC's open internet decision prior to its official release. It was a blatant effort to steer the case to a sympathetic court, but the judges unanimously agreed that the "appeal's" prematurity was "incurable."
That means challenges to the decision can be filed in different courts, but not until the FCC publishes the rules in the Federal Register, which in this case means no earlier than May 10, and likely not that soon since that would be assuming the FCC took only a day to review the comments on the rules due April 10 and OMB took only a day to review them after its own 30-day comment period is triggered April 10 and the Federal Register published them the same day. So, likely court challenges will not come until the end of May at the earliest.
"We are pleased the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the Commission that Verizon and MetroPCS were premature in challenging the Open Internet framework," asid FCC Spokesman Robert Kenny. "The Commission's policy preserves Internet freedom and openness and strikes the right balance for consumers and businesses across America."
Public knowledge was equally enthused.
"We are pleased that the Court dismissed Verizon's untimely and distracting challenge to the FCC's Net Neutrality order,"s aid Public Knowledge Legal director Harold Feld. "Now we are confident the judicial system will deal with any and all appeals raised in an orderly and fair manner."