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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Verizon Loses Challenge to Data Roaming Rule

(CN) - The D.C. Circuit rejected Verizon's challenge to a new FCC rule requiring wireless carriers to offer data roaming agreements to other providers.

For decades, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required wireless carriers to permit roaming - the use of another carrier's network infrastructure when a wireless subscriber travels outside the range of their own carrier's network.

Last year, the FCC also imposed a similar rule regarding mobile-data roaming that requires large providers to offer roaming agreements to smaller operators on "commercially reasonable" terms.

Verizon, which claims to have the largest data network in America, challenged the data rule in federal court, claiming that the FCC overstepped its authority and unlawfully treats mobile-internet providers as common carriers.

However, the D.C. Circuit found that new rule is well within the FCC's authority.

"Verizon argues that the data roaming rule exceeds the bounds of section 303(b) because instead of merely prescribing the nature of a service, the rule mandates the provision of service. Not so. Like any other entity, Verizon may choose not to provide mobile-internet service. Like other rules that govern Title III services, the data roaming rule merely defines the form mobile-internet service must take for those who seek a license to offer it," Judge David Tatel wrote for the three-judge panel.

In addition, the court found that large carriers had plenty of room to offer roaming services at competitive rates.

"Unlike the public-access rules, the data roaming rule leaves substantial room for individualized bargaining and discrimination in terms. The rule expressly permits providers to adapt roaming agreements to 'individualized circumstances without having to hold themselves out to serve all comers indiscriminately on the same or standardized terms,'" the 30-page opinion said.

Criticizing Verizon's portrayal of the FCC's rulemaking process in its court filings, Tatel concluded: "Verizon oversimplifies the Commission's reasoning and omits key language in the Order, creating a contradiction where none exists ... Verizon's myopic focus on part of a longer sentence plucked from a more extensive analysis obscures what the Order makes clear: that the Commission performed a thoughtful and nuanced balance of the costs and benefits of the data roaming rule."

In a statement, the FCC's chairman, Julius Genachowski, hailed the decision, saying it "confirms the FCC's authority to promote broadband competition and protect broadband consumers."

The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), which intervened on the FCC's side, was also "thrilled" with the decision."This is a decisive victory for consumers and an extremely positive outcome for competitive carriers and competitive policies. I could not be more pleased with the outcome for a Data Roaming Order that supports competition, and I applaud the FCC for their steadfast work on this extremely important issue. This is one important piece of the puzzle to ensure competitive carriers may deploy 4G LTE services to consumers across the nation," CCA President Steven Berry said in a press release.

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