First lawsuits filed against net neutrality changes

A month ago, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave internet service providers a big ol’ Christmas present in the form of overturning net neutrality protections.

Now, like clockwork, lawsuits are being filed from private companies, advocacy groups and state officials.

A coalition of nearly two dozen Attorneys Generals from across the United States Tuesday with a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., aiming to prevent the new regs from taking effect.

Led by Eric Schneiderman, the ticket-bot-fighting top lawyer from New York, almost half the states in the union and the District of Columbia are calling on federal appeals court in Washington to review the FCC’s proposed rules.

They’re asking the court to determine that the FCC’s new net neutrality regs are “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion” and in violation of federal law including the Constitution, the Telecommunications Act and FCC’s own regulations. They also argue the changes are in conflict with the government’s notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements and are otherwise “contrary to law.”

The regs, as introduced last year and approved by the FCC in December, are not yet the law of the land. The FCC published the full 530-page rule on Jan. 4 prior to official listing in in the Federal Register (the US version of Canada’s Gazette) but the regulations wouldn’t take effect until April at the earliest.

That’s part of what the AGs want to prevent: In the submission filed Tuesday, they ask the appeals court to put a hold on the changes, barring the FCC from changing anything until the legal actions are completed.

But that’s not all.

On Monday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced he has the support of all 49 Democratic senators – and one Republican – and was just one person short of clearing a hurdle in the race to overturn the FCC’s changes.

“With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West, where ISPs are free to offer premium services to only the wealthiest customers while average consumer are left with far inferior options,” Schumer said.

If they’re able to secure the support of one more senator, the motion would then pass to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and then on to the president’s desk. Considering FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is an appointee of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the cards are stacked against them.

Not done yet

And there’s more: lawsuits also were filed Tuesday by Free Press, Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute (part of the New America Foundation) and Mozilla. The lawsuits all have the support of the Internet Association, an industry group that includes Facebook, Google, Netflix, Spotify and Lyft among its members.

The fight’s not over yet. Stay tuned.

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