States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal

States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal
© Greg Nash

Twenty-two state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the agency's repeal of its net neutrality rules.

“An open internet — and the free exchange of ideas it allows — is critical to our democratic process,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) said in a statement. “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 was filed Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

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The FCC voted last month to scrap the Obama-era rules governing how internet service providers handle web traffic, sparking intense backlash.

The state officials were joined by the web company Mozilla and consumer groups including Public Knowledge in petitioning the court. They argued the FCC's move was "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the Administrative Procedures Act.

The Obama-era rules prohibited internet service providers from blocking or throttling legitimate traffic or creating fast lanes for websites to buy.

Republicans like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai argue the rules were heavy-handed and unnecessary and that antitrust and consumer protection laws already on the books are sufficient to prevent broadband companies from abusing their power.

But net neutrality supporters say the rules are essential to maintaining a level playing field on the internet.

“Internet access is a utility — just like water and electricity," Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTop California regulator: Emissions rule change 'blows a hole' in air pollution standards Industry wins big in methane rules rollback Overnight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback MORE, California's Democratic attorney general, said in a statement. "And every consumer has a right to access online content without interference or manipulation by their internet service provider."

"However, in repealing the net neutrality rules, the FCC ignored consumers’ strong support for a free and open internet,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Pai declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The FCC's move is now being fought in the courts and in Congress. The lawsuit comes on the same day that Senate Democrats announced that they need just one more Republican to back a bill that would block the net neutrality repeal and send it to the House.

It's unlikely that the bill will succeed, but Democrats hope to put Republicans in an uncomfortable spot ahead of what is shaping up to be a challenging midterm cycle for the GOP.

“When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress will — for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement earlier on Tuesday.

This story was updated at 4:51 p.m.