A leading lobbying group for Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and other tech giants said recently that it would be joining the coming legal crusade to restore the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules. As Recode reported, that task would fall on Etsy, public advocacy groups like Free Press and state attorneys general. Well, the time has finally come as they are being joined by 21 US states and Mozilla, in an attempt to purge the FCC from the idea of ever trying to redefine what ‘net neutrality’ means.
21 states and the District of Columbia today kicked off a lawsuit to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules. Advocacy groups are also suing the FCC. Mozilla joined the fight at the same time, as well.
The states 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. That’s every US state with a Democratic attorney general. Republican state attorneys general did not join the petition.
Title II regulation came about in 2015, during Barack Obama’s presidency and with a Democratic majority at the FCC. At the time the laws were put into place, the fear was that ISPs could eventually start using their power to create so-called “internet fast-lanes” to prioritize certain internet traffic, though they weren’t doing that just yet.
Now, with those laws having been repealed, ISPs are free to prioritize internet traffic based on which content providers pay them the most as well as throttle traffic that could be seen as competitive to their causes and even charge customers extra to access certain parts of the internet.
“It is imperative that all internet traffic be treated equally, without discrimination against content or type of traffic — that’s the how the internet was built and what has made it one of the greatest inventions of all time,” Mozilla writes on their website.
The barrage of early lawsuits comes about a month after Pai led the vote at the FCC to undo rules implemented under former President Barack Obama, which prevented AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon from blocking or slowing down websites, or charging companies for faster delivery of their content.
More and more people want the government to start truly treating the Internet as a public utility, like water:
The internet has revolutionary potential like no other tool has had in mankind’s history. Around two decades after Gov works, the canonical web 1.0 e-government startup, and four years after healthcare.gov, today all the pieces are in place to truly transform government operations.
There are a few arguments that lawyers could make against the FCC, but the most prominent will likely be that it acted capriciously in repealing Title II classification of the internet. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, regulations that are “arbitrary and capricious” are prohibited. That may be a phrase you hear a lot as legal challenges mount.