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Attorneys general from 22 states are suing to block the repeal of net neutrality

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The expected wave of litigation against the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net-neutrality rules has begun.

A group of attorneys general for 21 states and the District of Columbia sued Tuesday to block the rules. So did Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, public-interest group Free Press and New America's Open Technology Institute. Others may file suit as well, and a major tech-industry lobbying group has said it will support litigation.

The rules barred companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from interfering with internet traffic and favoring their own sites and apps. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's push to undo them inspired both street and online protests in defense of the Obama-era rules.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the suit, said Tuesday that the end of the net neutrality rules would hurt consumers and businesses.

FCC spokesman Brian Hart declined to comment on the litigation.

The lawsuits are part of a multi-pronged approach against the net-neutrality repeal. There are efforts by Democrats to undo the repeal in Congress. State lawmakers have also introduced bills to protect net neutrality in their own states. However, the FCC's order bars state laws from contradicting the federal government's approach. The FCC's new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring.

Apart from New York, the other attorneys general participating in the lawsuit are from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

The New York attorney general says the FCC made "arbitrary and capricious" changes to existing policies and was unjustified in departing from the FCC's long-standing policy of defending net neutrality.

The legal challenge could face an uphill battle, however. Antitrust attorney David Balto says the courts have generally shown deference to agencies to set regulations as long as they provide adequate explanations. A court would likely judge that the FCC has the authority to class the internet as an "information service" and invalidate the prior rules, just as the Obama-era FCC had the authority to label internet service a telecommunications utility and regulate it more heavily.

The parties may have to file suit again after the FCC's order is published in the Federal Register. That hasn't happened yet. The different suits may also be consolidated.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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