While state attorney generals proceed with their own legal battle, Congressional Democrats say they are nearing the level of bipartisan support needed to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s retreat from net neutrality policies.
This week, 22 Attorneys General in filed a multi-state lawsuit to block the Federal Communications Commission’s “illegal rollback” of net neutrality.
On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission’s commissioners voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality.
In 2015, the FCC adopted the Open Internet Order which reclassified broadband as a telecommunication service and prohibited internet service providers from setting up internet fast and slow lanes, ensuring all online traffic is treated the same. The D.C. Circuit Court upheld the rules in 2016, but the FCC started efforts to roll back these protections in spring of this year.
The coalition filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, formally commencing their lawsuit against the FCC and the federal government.
“An open internet is critical to our democratic process,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers, allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online.”
The lawsuit is led by Schneiderman and filed by the attorneys general of New York, 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.
Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the FCC cannot make “arbitrary and capricious” changes to existing policies, such as net neutrality. The lawsuit argues that the FCC’s rule fails to justify the Commission’s departure from its long-standing policy and practice of defending net neutrality, while misinterpreting and disregarding critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses.
Also, they say, the rule wrongly reclassifies broadband internet as a Title I information service, rather than a Title II telecommunications service, “based on an erroneous and unreasonable interpretation of the Telecommunications Act.”
The rule also “improperly and unlawfully includes sweeping preemption of state and local laws,” the lawsuit says.
Meanwhile, Democrats say they are just one vote away from having enough Republicans on board to reverse the FCC rollback using the Congressional Review Act.
Already supporting the bill, introduced in December by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The tactic has tough odds, and would need the additional Republican support to guarantee a vote in the House. If passed, approval by President Trump will also be necessary.