Attorneys general from "across the country" will sue the Federal Communications Commission in an attempt to reverse today's repeal of net neutrality rules.
"Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC's decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country," Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. "We will be filing a petition for review in the coming days. Allowing Internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open Internet. Today's action will seriously harm consumers, innovation, and small businesses."
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading the multi-state effort. "The FCC's vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers and to everyone who cares about a free and open Internet," Schneiderman said. "The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving Internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today's rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That's a threat to the free exchange of ideas that's made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process."
Schneiderman has been investigating that fraud for six months, but the FCC has refused to provide evidence for the investigation. That could play a role in the appeal, but the lawsuit is likely to challenge the FCC on several points. Most notably for state governments, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is claiming the authority to preempt state and local governments from enacting their own net neutrality rules.
If the preemption is successful, states would not be able to impose bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. They wouldn't be able to require ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. While the FCC is maintaining some disclosure rules that require notifying customers about network management practices, states would not be able to impose their own rules that go beyond the FCC's disclosure requirements.
The attorneys general will likely argue that the FCC doesn't have authority to preempt those types of consumer protection rules. The FCC's preemption powers aren't unlimited, as the commission found last year when judges reversed an FCC decision that preempted state-level restrictions on municipal broadband networks.
Congressional Democrats plan to file legislation that would reverse the repeal and reinstate the rules. Although some Republican lawmakers objected to today's FCC vote, legislation to reinstate the rules entirely has little chance of success in the Republican-controlled Congress.
"We will fight the FCC's decisions in the courts, and we will fight [them] in the halls of Congress," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said upon announcing the legislation. "Our Republican colleagues have a choice—be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support net neutrality or hold hands with the big cable and broadband companies who only want to supercharge their profits at the expense of consumers and our economy."