Adding to the growing backlash among the public and members of Congress against the FCC’s party-line vote on Thursday to repeal net neutrality protections, nearly 20 state attorneys general have lined up to sue the FCC, calling the Republican-controlled agency’s move a violation of the law and a serious “threat to the free exchange of ideas.”
“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — who is also investigating the flood of fake comments that “corrupted” the agency’s policymaking process — said in a statement announcing his intent to sue. “The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers.”
Soon after Schneiderman’s announcement on Thursday, more than a dozen other state AGs followed suit, with both red and blue states joining the public repudiation of FCC chair Ajit Pai’s plan. The list of states planning to taking legal action against the FCC — which includes Mississippi, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, and Illinois — continued to grow almost by the hour late Thursday and into Friday.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, one of the first to join Schneiderman’s planned multi-state suit, said in a statement that “Americans will pay more for the internet and will have fewer options” as a result of the FCC’s move.
“The agency has completely failed to justify this decision and we will be suing to stand up for the free exchange of ideas and to keep the American people in control of internet access,” Healey concluded.
In addition to legal challenges, states indicated they also plan to move quickly by enacting policy changes to override the FCC’s attack on the open internet.
State lawmakers focused particularly on the FCC’s attempt to not only kill net neutrality at the federal level, but also to prevent individual states and localities from enacting their own protections to preserve the open internet. Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Republican FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly vowed to be “vigilant in identifying and pursuing” states that attempt to uphold net neutrality.
California and Washington lawmakers have vowed to move ahead with legislation anyway. And, as Wired reports, “legal experts think there’s a good chance that the FCC’s rules barring states from making their own rules won’t hold up in court.”
“We don’t think that the FCC has the power to stop states from enacting our own rules. In fact, the FCC has lost that argument in court before, so we’re going to move forward,” concluded California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, in an interview on Thursday. “I think we’re going to have a lot of momentum.”