Dozens of attorneys general filed a petition Tuesday challenging the Federal Communication Commission’s recent decision to roll back net neutrality rules. A coalition of major tech companies has also promised court action; and Congress appears ready to take action, as well.
The petition, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, would block the rollback which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has championed since being appointed by President Donald Trump last year.
Last month, the commission voted 3-2 along party lines to kill net neutrality, officially known as the Open Internet Order. Before the FCC reversed the rules, net neutrality barred internet service providers from offering faster connection speeds to preferred customers.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading the group of 22 attorneys general. In a statement Tuesday, Schneiderman said he filed the complaint because the repeal is akin to turning “internet service providers into gatekeepers, allowing them to put profits over consumers whole controlling what we see, what we do and what we say online.”
“arbitrary and capricious”
Calling the reversal a “disaster,” he also dubbed the FCC’s order as “arbitrary and capricious,” adding that it violates basic stipulations laid out in the Administrative Procedure Act.
“The FCC’s new rule fails to justify the commission’s departure from its longstanding policy and practice of defending net neutrality while misinterpreting and disregarding critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses,” Schneiderman said Tuesday.
Attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia have added their names to the filing.
The FCC, which took millions of comments from the public prior to making their decision, did not immediately return request for comment Tuesday.
This is also not Schneiderman’s first run-in with the FCC over net neutrality.
His office launched a 6-month investigation of the millions of comments the commission received in the run up to the December vote. Schneiderman determined at least 2 million comments submitted were sent by individuals posing as another person.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., proposed a bill earlier this month challenging the reversal. Under the Congressional Review Act, and with enough votes, lawmakers could achieve a joint resolution, bypass any committee review and force a vote on the measure.
On Tuesday, all 49 Democratic senators threw their support behind Markey’s bill.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the only Republican to voice support for the measure. Only one more Republican vote is needed to secure the bill’s passage.
If passed, it would also bar the FCC from overturning net neutrality in the future. For now, the FCC’s repeal awaits approval at the Office of Management and Budget.