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Democratic Attorneys General Launch Revamped Suit To Restore Net Neutrality

— February 27, 2018

Twenty-two Democratic attorneys general launched a coordinated lawsuit last week with an intent to bring back net neutrality.

The litigation came the same day as the Federal Communications published its December vote in the Federal Register. Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the coalition had filed an earlier suit aimed at the FCC and its chairman, Ajit Pai.

Now that the vote’s publication in the Federal Register makes it eligible for legal recourse, the attorneys general opted to refile their case.

Their latest lawsuit, writes The Hill, hinges on the Administrative Procedure Act. Under its regulation, federal departments like the FCC are unable to take what Schneiderman and his colleagues call “arbitrary and capricious’ redactions to established policy.

“The FCC’s new rule fails to justify the Commission’s departure from its long-standing policy and practice of defending net neutrality while misinterpreting and disregarding critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses,” claims a press release from Schneiderman’s office.

Schneiderman’s charge forward is being supported by a number of technology companies, including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix.

Among the latest entrants to the fray is the non-profit Mozilla Foundation, which refiled a suit against the FCC alongside video-streaming platform Vimeo.

Lawmakers are also trying to push back against the Federal Communications Commission, with net neutrality activists rallying around the possibility of a Congressional Review Act (CRA). If successful, a CRA could moot the 3-2 FCC vote from December.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at a USDA meeting in 2017. Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture/Lance Cheung. Public domain.

But the chances of a CRA making its way from the Senate to be approved in the House are slim. Even if both chambers of congress approved its passage, President Donald Trump is almost certain to spare his signature.

The net neutrality rollback, reports The Hill, still needs an endorsement from the White House Office of Management and Budget before it takes effect.

Surprisingly, the state-level legislative backlash against the FCC decision has spurred some telecommunications companies and special interest fronts to prod Congress toward creating a comprehensive net neutrality law. On Wednesday, AT&T took out a full-page ad in multiple newspapers asking lawmakers for a single fits-all solution.

“It is time for Congress to end the debate once and for all, by writing new laws that govern the internet and protect consumers,” wrote AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

Stephenson, along with his colleagues at Comcast, are pushing for a legal fix which will establish a level playing field for telecommunications companies across the United States.

While Stephenson’s position advocates a ban on ISPs’ ability to throttle, censor, and block content. However, critics of big telecommunications companies claim they’d prefer legislation which allows them to prioritize certain varieties of web traffic over others – essentially coercing consumers into paying more for fast speeds.

“”We don’t block websites. We don’t censor online content. And we don’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content. Period,” Stephenson wrote.


AT&T wants Congress to pass a net neutrality law

Democratic state attorneys general sue to preserve net neutrality rules

Net neutrality suit gains support from tech’s biggest companies

What tech companies are saying about the repeal of net neutrality rules

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