Twenty-one states (and the District of Columbia) filed a lawsuit this week to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) December repeal of net neutrality rules.
The news marks the beginning of what may prove to be a lengthy and high stakes battle for the future of the internet in the USA. The current FCC rules that protect the idea of Net Neutrality, prohibit Internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. Those rules are set to change however in the wake of last month’s FCC vote.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the states’ suit, said that the FCC’s attempt to repeal the current net neutrality rules were “capricious”, “arbitrary”, and violated federal law. “The petition is the first step by states to attempt to block the FCC’s decision, and it will allow the attorneys general to move forward with the appeal in the future,” said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Net Neutrality currently prohibits ISPs from blocking and throttling Internet traffic and from prioritizing traffic in exchange for payment. The FCC voted on December 14 to deregulate the broadband industry, remove the current net neutrality rules, and prevent states from issuing their own, similar rules in order to bypass the FCC decision.
The Republican-led FCC has argued that the existing rules stymied industry investment, an argument that has been criticized and ridiculed by most independent experts.
The case could easily take at least a year to be decided. FCC net neutrality rules enacted in February 2015 were upheld in appeals court in June 2016. Before that, rules enacted in December 2010 were struck down in January 2014.
For and against
The FCC’s decision to overturn these protections has been championed by the telecom industry, but widely criticized by technology companies and consumer advocacy groups. According to CNN A spokeswoman for the FCC declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Every US state with a Democratic attorney general is suing the FCC. The names of the states currently suing the FCC are New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, no Republican state attorneys general have added their name to lawsuit.