Attorneys general from 22 states have banded together to sue the Federal Communications Commission for axing net neutrality rules the Obama administration put in place in 2015.
Despite opposition from politicians, digital consumers and even a top FCC official, the agency voted last month to repeal net neutrality regulations that classified the internet as a public utility and required internet service providers to deliver all digital content at the same speed.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took the first step toward suing the FCC and the federal government over the rollback by filing a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Schneiderman is leading the multistate lawsuit, backed by a coalition of attorneys general from 20 other states ― California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington ― and the District of Columbia.
The attorneys general, all of whom are Democrats, claim that the FCC broke federal law when it reversed the net neutrality rules.
“An open internet ― and the free exchange of ideas it allows ― is critical to our democratic process,” Schneiderman said in a statement Tuesday. “The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers ― allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online.”
President Barack Obama established net neutrality in 2015 so that ISPs couldn’t offer faster speed and better access to large companies ― Netflix and Facebook, for example ― who can pay more than smaller companies.
Some experts believe that without the the Title II regulations that classify the internet as a public utility, smaller companies will be pitted against digital giants such as Netflix and Hulu in a money bid over faster delivery speeds. The rollback could also give internet providers the power to block lawful websites, apps or digital content at their own discretion.
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin slammed the FCC and the Trump administration on Tuesday for giving more power to big digital companies.
“Big business must not be deciding what people in Hawaii can access on the Internet and how easily we can access it,” Chin said in a statement. “This lawsuit challenges the rushed attempt, riddled with irregularities, by the Trump Administration to rollback net neutrality.”
In December, Schneiderman announced his plans to sue the FCC, shortly after the agency voted to repeal net neutrality regulations.