Litigation Machine Fires Up to Save Network Neutrality

After the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to scrap network neutrality, government officials have already kicked off litigation in an effort to save network neutrality.

Yesterday, the FCC voted to gut network neutrality. The move sent shockwaves across the country and around the world. As the shock begins to set in, America finds itself scrambling to figure out what the next steps are. Many predicted that litigation is going to be one of the opening moves to put a stop to all of this. According to news that is surfacing, that does appear to be the next move.

Ars Technica is reporting that state attorneys generals from across the country have announced that they plan on suing the FCC. From the report:

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.”

The article also points out that Democrats plan to file legislation to reverse this decision.

Slashdot is also pointing to several articles on the subject.

California State Senator Scott Wiener says that he intends on putting legislation forward to protect network neutrality:

Today the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality — a terrible step for the future of a free and open internet and for our democracy. In January when the State Legislature reconvenes, I will introduce legislation to require net neutrality in California.

Net neutrality is essential to our 21st century democracy, and we need to ensure people can access websites and information freely and fairly. Under President Obama, the FCC adopted a requirement for internet service providers to treat websites equally and not to play favorites based on who pays more. The rule prevented “throttling” of websites and helped ensure an open internet.

By repealing net neutrality requirements, the Trump-controlled FCC is allowing internet service providers to decide which websites will be easily accessible and which won’t. Providers are now free to manipulate web traffic on their networks, which means they can speed or slow traffic to certain sites and even block access.

Particularly in this authoritarian age — with constant attacks from Washington on our democratic values and the free press — we must have a free and open internet. Our democracy depends on it. We can’t have an Internet that favors access for those who pay to boost their web traffic or, worse, that blocks websites because they aren’t willing to shell out money. That is not what our our democracy is about, and it shouldn’t be how our internet works.

It should be noted that part of the repeal in the FCC involves language that bans state level governments from protecting the Internet at the state level, so it’ll be interesting to see if any successful push holds up in spite of the ban.

Congress is seeing action from the Democrats as well through the Congressional Review Act:

“Donald Trump’s FCC made an historic mistake today by overturning its net neutrality rules, and we cannot let it stand,” said Senator Markey. “Without strong net neutrality rules, entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses, activists and all those who rely on a free and open internet will be at the mercy of big broadband companies that can block websites, slow down traffic and charge websites fees in order to increase their profits.

“We will fight the FCC’s decisions in the courts, and we will fight it in the halls of Congress,” continued Senator Markey. “With this CRA, Congress can correct the Commission’s misguided and partisan decision and keep the internet in the hands of the people, not big corporations. Our Republicans 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.”

Obviously, such actions face an uphill battle. In addition to the FCC ban on state level legislation that would protect the open Internet, all branches of government are Republican controlled. By the time any litigation makes it to the supreme court, right wing judges will also control it. Still, this order is being fought and will no doubt slow things down. If anything, America isn’t going to just let the repeal fly without a fight.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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