Twenty-two states urge court to block net neutrality repeal

Twenty-two states urge court to block net neutrality repeal
© Greg Nash

Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C., asked a federal court to block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from repealing its 2015 net neutrality rules, arguing that the move would allow the agency to abdicate its responsibility to oversee internet service providers.

In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late Monday night, the group of Democratic state attorneys general also argued that the commission overstepped its authority in ruling that states could not implement their own net neutrality protections following the repeal of the federal rules.

“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 states argued. “The recent Order represents a dramatic and unjustified departure from this long-standing commitment.”

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The FCC voted in December to repeal the rules that prohibited companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or throttling internet content or from creating paid fast lanes. The Republican-led commission argued that the rules were too onerous and that the industry could be policed using existing laws.

But the attorneys general on Monday argued that the FCC failed to consider what effect the absence of the rules would have on consumers and that it was too willing to believe the industry’s commitments not to abuse their power over internet access.

The FCC declined to comment on the briefs.

The commission must file a response by Oct. 11.

The repeal, which went into effect in June, has prompted a widespread outcry and a multipronged effort to revive the regulations. Several states have already passed their own laws or implemented the protections through executive action. 

There's also an effort in Congress to block the FCC's repeal through legislation. In a bipartisan vote earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill that would undo the FCC's move. It's unclear if the joint resolution will get a vote in the House.

The lawsuit against the FCC is backed by dozens of public interest groups and internet companies worried that the repeal will allow broadband companies to decide what websites get prioritized and what gets throttled. 

“A free and open internet is critical to New York — and to our democracy," New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. "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.”

Updated at 9:46 a.m.