Verizon Wireless files lawsuit over FCC auction rules

The telco contends that the open-access conditions are unconstitutional.

Verizon Wireless has filed a lawsuit in federal court asking that the FCC’s open-access rules for next January’s 700MHz spectrum auction be overturned.

The wireless carrier asked the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia to strike down the FCC requirements that would make the winner of the auction open certain spectrum for use with any compatible device or software a subscriber chooses.

Verizon contends that the open-access conditions are unconstitutional and that the FCC overstepped its authority when it approved the new rules on July 31.

At issue is whether U.S. wireless networks are open to all compatible devices, or whether carriers can continue their practice of restricting the devices to only models that they choose to sell. The limitation also extends to content downloaded over the networks.

The open-access rules, which would serve to break the stronghold that major carriers have on the spectrum that they control, were strongly advocated by companies such as Google, a potential bidder in the auction.

Open-access networks also have the support of many consumer advocate groups, who argue that the chokeholds now placed on networks by the major carriers need to be broken to encourage competition in the wireless business. The FCC’s 2008 auction rules are the first step in that direction.