Verizon Communications took the Federal Communications Commission to court on Thursday over its recently issued Internet traffic rules, arguing the regulator had overstepped its authority.
The filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fulfilled the predictions of many industry analysts that the FCC's split vote last month to impose the rules would be swiftly challenged.
Medley Global Advisors analyst Jeffrey Silva said there was a reasonable chance the court would strike down the rules.
The same court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast Corp from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network, spurring the agency's most recent rulemaking effort.
Verizon said it was concerned by the FCC's assertion of broad authority to make new regulations on broadband Internet networks.
We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress, and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers, Verizon deputy general counsel Michael Glover said in a statement.
A senior FCC official said Verizon appeared to be premature in making its filing since the Internet rules have not even been published yet in the Federal Register.
The agency is confident the order is legally sound, said the FCC official, who spoke on condition he was not named.
In a 3-2 vote on December 21, the FCC adopted rules that prevent network operators from blocking lawful content but still let them ration access to their networks. The agency's two Republican members voted against the measure.
The rules gave wireless service providers more leeway in managing their networks but still forbade them from blocking access to websites or competing voice and video applications.
The action highlighted a huge divide between those who say the Internet should flourish without regulation and those who say the power of high-speed Internet providers to discriminate against competitors needs to be restrained.
Even though the FCC's Internet rules have not been formally published yet, a step that would put them into effect, Verizon's appeal argued that the rules would modify wireless airwave licenses it holds.
Verizon is majority owner of Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile service.
Disputes over licenses must be filed within 30 days of the order's release, and are only heard in the D.C. circuit court.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Jasmin Melvin in Washington D.C.; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)