Net neutrality rollback: 22 US attorneys general sue the FCC

17 Jan 2018296 Views

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US legal chiefs in bid to stop US government and big business from choking the internet.

22 attorneys general from across the US have commenced legal action against the Federal Communications Commission’s decision (FCC) to repeal net neutrality.

Last month, following intense lobbying by FCC chair and Republican Ajit Pai, the FCC voted 3-2 to dismantle net neutrality rules established during the Obama era.

‘The repeal of net neutrality would have dire consequences for consumers and businesses in New York and across the country that rely on a free and open internet’
– ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN

The fears are that this decision will set the stage for a multi-tiered internet with the odds in favour of those who can afford the best speeds. The move is potentially a major setback for consumers who will have to carry the costs.

The repeal of net neutrality has been described by the 22 attorney generals as “arbitrary and capricious”.

ISPs could ‘throttle’ the internet

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is leading the coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing a multi-state lawsuit to block the FCC’s “illegal” rollback of net neutrality.

“The repeal of net neutrality would have dire consequences for consumers and businesses in New York and across the country that rely on a free and open internet, allowing internet service providers [ISPs] to block certain content, charge consumers more to access certain sites, and throttle or slow the quality of content from content providers that don’t pay more,” Schneiderman said.

He warned that the repeal of net neutrality would turn ISPs into gatekeepers, “allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do and what we say online”.

Schneiderman added: “This would be a disaster for New York consumers and businesses, and for everyone who cares about a free and open internet. That’s why I’m proud to lead this broad coalition of 22 attorneys general in filing suit to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality.”

‘Ending net neutrality could end the internet as we know it’
– MOZILLA

He said that Pai’s new rule fails to justify the FCC’s long-standing policy of defending net neutrality, and disregards critical evidence on how businesses and consumers would be harmed by the change.

“Moreover, 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. Finally, the rule improperly and unlawfully includes sweeping pre-emption of state and local laws.”

Internet browser player Mozilla also filed a petition in federal court against the FCC.

“The internet is a global, public resource,” Mozilla said.

“It relies on the core principle of net neutrality (that all internet traffic be treated equally) to exist. If that principle is removed – with only some content and services available, or with roadblocks inserted by ISPs to throttle or control certain services – the value and impact of that resource can be impaired or destroyed.

“Ending net neutrality could end the internet as we know it. That’s why we are committed to fighting the order. In particular, we filed our petition today because we believe the recent FCC decision violates both federal law as well as harms internet users and innovators. In fact, it really only benefits large ISPs,” Mozilla said.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com