Verizon Sues FCC Over Data-Roaming Rules

Published May 31, 2016

In an attempt to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s new data-roaming rules, Verizon Wireless has filed suit claiming the order oversteps the agency’s jurisdiction.

The data-roaming rules, passed this past April by a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, force national carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T to allow regional wireless customers to roam on their networks. Verizon claims the FCC lacks the statutory authority to regulate broadband.

“Expect the FCC to get reined-in here,” said Scott Cleland, founder and president of Precursor LLC, a Washington, DC-based technology policy research institution. “The data roaming order raises the same fundamental legal question a D.C. Circuit panel unanimously decided in Comcast v. FCC, which the FCC interestingly did not appeal.”

‘Interesting, Not Surprising’
Verizon filed its appeal in mid-May with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—the same court where it filed a lawsuit to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules this past winter. The court rejected Verizon’s appeal in the latter case on a technicality as the FCC hadn’t yet put the rules in the national Federal Register, a step necessary before appeals can be fought.

Verizon noted in its appeal that the same court ruled in Comcast v. FCC that the agency exceeded its regulatory authority over broadband Internet services when it punished the cable giant for blocking Internet traffic.

“Expect Verizon to prevail in its appeal of the FCC data roaming order,” Cleland said.

“This is very interesting yet not surprising,” said Hunter Newby, founder and CEO of Allied Fiber in New York. “This was exactly [Verizon’s} argument for Broadband Relief in 2003. Why should they invest in fiber to the home [FiOS] and then have to let competitors in to lease and use that fiber? Just replace the word fiber with ‘wireless.'”

Newby added: “It’s all about control. The FCC doesn’t want to be told that they must be fair. Instead, they want to decide what the definition of fair and commercially reasonable is.”

Newby said the FCC’s actions are not reserved solely for Verizon. “All incumbents in the industry believe the same thing,” he said.

‘Higher Prices for End-Users’
Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Networks, LLC in New York, says the FCC has overstepped its jurisdiction in this matter. “The FCC continues to show a blatant disregard for carriers to operate on their own merits,” he said.

“The FCC should not be dictating who or who not to work with,” Zoldan added. “Continued interference by government will . . . result at the end of the day in higher prices for the end user.”

Cleland agrees with Zoldan. “The FCC has grossly overstepped its statutory authority in attempting to price regulate an unregulated information service,” said Cleland.

“The FCC’s legal argument essentially boils down to whatever a majority of FCC commissioners vote to approve is legal,” he said.

Phil Britt ([email protected]) writes from South Holland, Illinois.

Internet Info:

“Reexamination of Roaming Obligations of Commercial Mobile Radio Service Providers and Other Providers of Mobile Data Services,” Federal Communications Commission Second Report and Order, April 7, 2011: