Summary:

We’re going to have to wait a little longer before we know if the network neutrality rules the FCC implemented in 2010 are hear to stay. The courts aren’t likely to hear the case until fall.

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The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to wait until September before hearing arguments in a case that challenges the Federal Communication Commission’s right to implement network neutrality, according to a research note. This would delay a decision until the end of this year or early 2014. Originally the arguments in the case, which was filed by Verizon and Metro PCS, were anticipated by May, with a decision made some time over the summer.

At this point the excruciating slog that has been the network neutrality rule-making process just continues to play out like some sort of successful Disney franchise moving from movie theaters to several straight-to-video releases. The news about the shift in timing from the court comes via a research note penned by Stifel Nicolaus, an investment bank, on Monday afternoon. The note said:

The briefing schedule was completed in January and there seemed to be a good chance a three-judge panel would be named any day to hear the case, with oral argument scheduled for no later than May and a ruling possible over the summer. But our understanding is the case will not be scheduled for oral argument before next September (absent unforeseen circumstances), though the panel could be named sooner. The court generally takes a break from oral arguments between May and September.

Analysts Chris King and David Kaut note that the timing for the eventual ruling would subsequently get pushed back to the fourth quarter of this year or early next year. They also note that the timing is likely a disappointment for both Verizon and Metro PCS. Recall that the network neutrality regulations were released in Dec. 2010 and weren’t published in the Federal Register (and thus becoming both real regulation and now open to a lawsuit) until November 2011.

I suppose another nine months or a year before the fate of those rules will be decided is just par for this particular regulatory course.

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