Lawsuit challenges FCC’s net neutrality reversal

Lawsuit challenges FCC’s net neutrality reversal

Twenty-three state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman [official profile], filed [text, PDF] a petition for review in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) reversal of Obama administration net neutrality regulations.

Net neutrality attempts to ensure that Internet service providers enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

The petition alleges that the FCC’s publishing of its final notice [text, PDF] in the Federal Register reversing the Obama administration’s classification of consumer broadband services under Title II back to Title I of the Telecommunications Act is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion within the Administrative Procedure Act.” [statutes, PDF]

The FCC’s order asserts that the regulatory uncertainty created by utility-style Title II regulation has reduced Internet service provider (ISP) investment in networks, as well as hampered innovation, particularly among small ISPs serving rural consumers.

Additionally, the order claims that the public policy and legal analysis supports the Title I information service classification because it is more likely to encourage broadband investment and innovation, thereby furthering the goal of closing the digital divide and benefitting the Internet in its entirety. These findings, the FCC claims, are supported by the 2005 US Supreme Court case National Cable & Tellcom. Assoc. v. Brand X [opinion].

In response, the coalition of attorneys general maintain that the repeal of net neutrality would have dire consequences for consumers and businesses across the country that rely on a free and open internet by allowing internet service providers 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 stated [press release]:

An open internet, and the free exchange of ideas it allows, is critical to our democratic process. Repealing net neutrality will allow internet service providers to put corporate profits over consumers by controlling what we see, do, and say online. Consumers and businesses in New York and across the country have the right to a free and open internet, and our coalition of Attorneys General won’t stop fighting to protect that right.