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Federal appeals court hears arguments on FCC 'net neutrality' regulations

A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] suggested Monday during oral arguments that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] 2011 "Open Internet" rules [FCC backgrounder] may be invalidated in whole or in part. Verizon [corporate website] has filed suit twice in three years alleging that the rules, which allow the government to regulate Internet traffic, are beyond the FCC's powers under the Telecommunications Act [text, pdf]. In particular, the judges reportedly expressed skepticism [Dow Jones report] with respect to the legality of anti-discrimination provisions that prohibit Internet providers from charging "content companies" like Google [corporate website] and Netflix for faster access to consumers. If the rules are invalidated, content companies would be forced to bear more of the financial burden associated with user traffic.

Internet providers have challenged the FCC's net neutrality rules in the past. In April 2011 the DC Circuit granted [JURIST report] a motion by the FCC to dismiss a challenge to the new net neutrality rules. In January 2011 MetroPCS, the fifth-largest cell phone company in the US, filed an appeal [JURIST report] challenging net neutrality rules. Also in January 2011 Verizon filed an appeal [JURIST report] in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the net neutrality rules.

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