U.S. states are suing the FCC over net neutrality

Posted January 18, 2018

As attorneys general from 21 states have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the Federal Communications Commission's decision to end net neutrality protections, US senators from Tennessee are weighing in on the issue.

At issue is the Federal Communications Commission's move not just to repeal the strict net neutrality rules it adopted in 2015, but also to renounce virtually all of the commission's regulatory authority over broadband internet providers.

The states behind the lawsuit are New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state. The FCC published the full 530-page rule on January 4 prior to official listing in in the Federal Register (the United States version of Canada's Gazette) but the regulations wouldn't take effect until April at the earliest.

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Now, Senate Democrats are trotting out the act to undo a Republican effort to let cable and phone companies meddle with the internet.

The legislation will be introduced under the Congressional Review Act and if signed into law, would overturn the FCC's decision and restore net neutrality protections. But it's not so simple: a repeal would require a vote in the House of Representatives, too, and Republicans hold a larger majority there than in the Senate. These states all have Democratic attorney generals, according to Ars Technica, meaning the decision continues to play out along party lines. "I want to keep Virginians, not their service providers, in charge of their own internet experience".

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.

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To win passage of the resolution, its supporters must recruit one more Republican member to their ranks.

As for the lawsuit from State Attorneys General, this looks to be just the opening salvo of what will undoubtedly be a long and drawn out litigious process.

What is unfortunate for the Democratic efforts to block the net neutrality repeal in the Senate is the magic number of 51; there are only 49 Democratic Senators now. "Lawsuits challenging regulations on this ground are not often successful, but it is impossible to determine how a court would rule and there is a precedent for the arguments of the attorneys general".

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The problem is, any resolution condemning the FCC's killing of net neutrality would have to pass both the House and earn a signature from President Trump.