Trump Net Neutrality Repeal Faces New 23-State Legal Challenge

Ajit Pai, Mozilla Firefox

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is being sued over repeal of net neutrality. (Photo: MPG Collage)

The Trump administration’s decision to roll back net neutrality is facing a new legal attack by 23 state attorneys general, who charge the decision was “arbitrary” and “capricious.”

A new legal brief was filed with an existing lawsuit urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to vacate and reverse the the Federal Communications Comission’s (FCC) order. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year.

“By repealing net neutrality, the FCC is allowing internet service providers to put their profits before consumers while controlling what we see, do, and say online,” said New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who is leading the coalition.

“As we detail in our brief filed today, the rollback of net neutrality will have a devastating impact on millions of New Yorkers and Americans across the country,” she added.

The County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District and the California Public Utilities Commission are also plaintiffs along with consumer groups.

The new brief focuses on two critical issues:

  • That the FCC’s order is arbitrary and capricious because it puts consumers at risk of abusive practices by broadband providers, jeopardizes public safety, and more;
  • And second, that the FCC’s order unlawfully purports to preempt state and local regulation of broadband service.

“For more than fifteen years, the Federal Communications Commission has agreed that an open Internet free from blocking, throttling, or other interference by service providers is critical to ensure that all Americans have access to the advanced telecommunications services that have become essential for daily life,” the brief argues.

“The recent order represents a dramatic and unjustified departure from this long-standing commitment,” the brief states.

The FCC voted in December to repeal rules governing the internet, giving broadband companies broad power to slice and dice service–and raise fees.

Significantly, the regulations prevented providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service for certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet.

The action, by a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to have stronger oversight over broadband providers.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the move would help consumers by promoting competition and providing incentive for broadband providers to build networks, “especially to underserved areas,” according to The New York Times.

The lawsuit in question was re-filed in February by Mozilla Corp., maker of a popular Internet browser.

It argues the FCC’s decision to overturn the 2015 rules violates both federal law as well as harms internet users and innovators.

“The decision does not simply ‘roll back’ to an unregulated internet, instead, it removes affirmative protections for the public despite the fact that many people in the U.S. suffer from a lack of choice in broadband high speed internet access,” Mozilla said in a statement.

The coalition of 23 Attorneys General collectively represents over 165 million people – approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population.

That states are: New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.