WASHINGTON — State attorneys general filed lawsuits on Tuesday challenging the FCC’s repeal of most of its net neutrality rules.
Other litigation was also filed by Mozilla and several public interest groups, including Open Technology Institute, New America Foundation, and Free Press, also sued.
Attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia, including California and New York, filed a petition for review and argued that the FCC’s action was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion,” and violated the Constitution and federal law.
The FCC voted 3-2 last month to repeal rules that prohibit internet providers from blocking or throttling content, or from giving preference to sites that pay for speedier access to consumers. The move was championed by Chairman Ajit Pai, who argued that the existing regulations were choking off investment by internet providers in expanding their networks.
The attorneys general said they filed a petition out of an “abundance of caution,” citing some ambiguity over when a lawsuit has to be filed in order to be included in a lottery to determine which federal court will review the case. It’s likely that they will have to file a lengthier lawsuit after the FCC’s action is published in the Federal Register.
“Internet access is a utility, just like water and electricity,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “And every consumer has a right to access online content without interference or manipulation by their internet service provider.”
An FCC spokeswoman said they had no comment.
The attorneys general indicated that they would challenge a number of the FCC’s moves, including a provision that prohibits individual states from establishing their own net neutrality rules. They also indicated that they would challenge the way that the FCC considered more than 20 million comments filed in the case, although studies showed that a great number were duplicates. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who led the attorneys general litigation, asked the FCC to delay its December vote, arguing that he had evidence that many comments came from stolen identities.
The litigation was filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Other states joining the lawsuit include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Mozilla also filed a lawsuit. Denelle Dixon, its chief legal and business officer, wrote in a blog post that “we filed our petition today because we believe the recent FCC decision violates both federal law as well as harms internet users and innovators. In fact, it really only benefits large Internet Service Providers.”
Free Press filed a challenge to the FCC’s action in Massachusetts, where the group’s main office is based.
Matt Wood, Free Press’ policy director, said, “Ajit Pai and his Republican colleagues at the FCC blundered their way to a bad decision late last year. They ignored the legal and economic evidence showing that the prior rules and regulatory classifications were working beautifully, as broadband investment and deployment continued to grow under the Title II-based rules Pai struck down.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Democrats announced that all 49 members of their caucus will vote to restore the rules. They are planning to call for a floor vote to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality, and also have the support of one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), leaving them just one vote short of a majority.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said he so far has 82 co-sponsors for a similar resolution in the House.
Even if that resolution passes both chamber, though, it is likely that President Donald Trump would veto it. The White House has indicated that it supports the FCC’s moves to roll back the net neutrality regulations.
(Pictured: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai)