Major Internet Companies Plan to Join Net Neutrality Repeal Lawsuits

While there is plenty of legislative action to reverse the repeal of network neutrality, it seems that there is also some increasing muscle on the litigation front as well.

It is another instance that shows the debate surrounding network neutrality is far from over in the US. Last December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted along party lines to scrap network neutrality rules that prevented ISPs from discriminating against websites and various forms of traffic. The rules guarded against ISPs from favouring traffic going to their own services over traffic going to competing services.

While the vote is a done deal, the decision still has to be entered into the federal register. As such, a lot can happen both on a legislative and litigation front. Already, there are states like California gearing up to implement their own network neutrality laws. This in spite of the FCC ban on states doing just that.

Another more recent development is the fact that the US federal senate legislation reversing the FCC order achieved the necessary 30 sponsors to bring such a legislative move to the floor. Since then, the legislation garnered 40 co-sponsors. This leaves the house of representatives to do something similar – something we haven’t heard much about as of yet, but we are actively monitoring the situation.

While there are gears moving within the halls of the federal government, there is also movement outside of government as well. Lawsuits to reverse the network neutrality repeal are already being formulated. It turns out, the litigation front did receive some muscle from the big names of the Internet. According to CNET, the Internet Association says it will join in with lawsuits to reverse the FCC decision. The association represents Internet giants such as Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix. From the report:

The Washington, DC-based Internet Association on Friday said it plans to “intervene” in lawsuits that are expected to be filed against the Federal Communications Commission challenging its repeal last month of the 2015 net neutrality regulations.

The Internet Association is not expected to file its own lawsuit. Instead, it will work closely with other entities filing suit, such as the internet marketplace Etsy, which has publicly stated plans to launch a legal challenge, and consumer advocacy groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge, which have also expressed interest in filing lawsuits.

While not a named petitioner in the case, the Internet Association will likely write briefs and provide legal arguments in the case.

“IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution,” Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time large websites have taken a stand on the issue. Already, a number of large websites signed a joint letter in early December voicing their opposition to the move to gut network neutrality.

Some have criticized the large websites of remaining too silent on the issue. A few even speculated that the largest websites are actually fine with the gutting of network neutrality because the companies behind them have enough cash to weather any kind of storm that will result in the gutting of network neutrality. This latest announcement seems to run counter to that criticism. If these companies are fine with the gutting of network neutrality, why are they willing to throw their weight behind potential lawsuits that are in the works? A quick look today on the official Twitter account of the Internet Association shows plenty of support for network neutrality. Whether or not this is enough to satisfy critics, however, remains to be seen.

Still, there is plenty of effort to try to reverse network neutrality. This in spite of the fact that it has somewhat dropped off from the media spotlight somewhat since the vote occurred.

The fight to save the Internet in the US continues.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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