It will come as no surprise that the FCC’s latest network neutrality effort is being challenged in court. Actually, I’m somewhat surprised it took this long – I guess all the lawyers spent a bit longer in the Caribbean over the holidays. But it is just a little bit ironic that it is Verizon (NYSE:VZ, news, filings) that is making the challenge, because the rules the FCC passed are more than a little bit similar to the principles that Verizon and Google put down on paper a few months before (ArsTechnica has a nice side by side comparison).
But on the other hand, it’s really not a surprise at all. Verizon’s work with Google was an ‘if we must be regulated, let it be this’ type of effort, and it anticipated congressional action to make it work. But Verizon knew all along, as did anyone else with more than three brain cells, that congressional action was about as likely in the near future as is my selection as the Yankee’s shortstop after spring training this year. At the moment, they’re actually celebrating the fact that both sides can sit together quietly during a speech without fighting, something the rest of us learned how to do in kindergarten. So Verizon’s public, altruistic discussions with Google were always something of a PR freebie.
Besides, Verizon has nothing at risk here – think of it like a a live fire exercise for their legal team. If they win, they get no regulation. If they lose, they get the compromise regulation that they already said wouldn’t be that bad. So why not take the opportunity to bend Julius over a barrel while gumming up the works a bit so that the FCC gets even less done in 2011. Besides, Comcast is a bit busy right now with NBC and all that, and AT&T probably doesn’t want to risk alienating their iPhone customers any more than they have already. Verizon, on the other hand, is looking at a rather enjoyable year with the iPhone coming, FIOS expenses ramping down, much of its copper already sold off to Frontier, etc. For the proverbial 800lb gorilla, it’s a pretty good time to pick a fight.
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