Comcast sues to overturn FCC net neutrality order

by Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

Comcast Corp. filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission Thursday to block the agency's decision to sanction Comcast for blocking certain Internet traffic.

The lawsuit involves a 3-2 decision the FCC handed down in early August finding Comcast's practices violated net neutrality rules, and ordering the company to provide more details of its network management policies within 30 days. The FCC also ordered Comcast to stop blocking traffic related to specific applications, such as file sharing software that allows users to swap videos, by the end of the year.

It was the first time the FCC had found a company in violation of its so-called "net neutrality" principles, which lay out consumers' Internet rights and the concept that all legal Internet traffic should be treated equally.

Comcast was widely expected to legally challenge the FCC's decision, even though the company was not fined. The company says its practice of sometimes slowing Internet traffic on file-sharing networks like BitTorrent is reasonable and necessary to prevent a few bandwidth hogs from slowing other customers' service.

The filing doesn't go into details about its complaint but company officials have in the past argued that the FCC has authority to bring enforcement actions under rules, not principles. Concern about that issue has driven so-far unsuccessful efforts by Congressional Democrats to pass net neutrality legislation that would give the FCC specific authority to police Internet providers.

Despite the lawsuit, Comcast said Thursday that it will fully comply with the FCC's order, including filing more information about its network management practices to the agency and changing those practices by the end of the year.

"We filed this appeal in order to protect our legal rights and to challenge the basis on which the [FCC] found that Comcast violated federal policy in the absence of pre-existing legally enforceable standards or rules," Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen said in a written statement. Although the company recognizes the FCC's jurisdiction over Internet service providers, Comcast believes in this case the FCC's action "was legally inappropriate and its findings were not justified by the record."

An FCC spokesman did not immediately have comment about the suit.

The cable giant filed its lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals here, but there's no guarantee that the case will be heard in the business-friendly court. Last Friday, public interest groups filed lawsuits about the FCC's Comcast decision in three appeals courts across the country so a lottery would be held to decide which court hears the case.

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