What do Cali, New York, Hawaii, Maine and 18 other US states have in common? Fighting the FCC on net neutrality

Attorneys General go to court to rescue internet protections

By Thomas Claburn in San Francisco

Posted in Personal Tech, 17th January 2018 00:54 GMT

Twenty-two US State Attorneys General filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to undo the Federal Communications Commission's rejection of net neutrality in America.

The FCC – the nation's broadband watchdog – late last year approved rules titled Restoring Internet Freedom that free ISPs to discriminate against data as they see fit. The federal agency did so despite broad political opposition and reports that millions of comments submitted to the FCC website to endorse the shift were fraudulent.

The FCC order was adopted by the regulator in December, and was popped online this month, but it is not yet official because it still has not been published in the US government's Federal Register.

The order reverses 2015 rules that classified broadband internet service providers as telecommunications services, which made them subject to specific regulations – such as more prioritizing certain network traffic, such as its own video-calling system over Apple's Facetime or Microsoft's Skype. The new order also returns mobile service providers to a separate regulatory classification.

What's more, the order eliminates conduct requirements, trusting that revised transparency rules – watered down to remove "unnecessary and burdensome" requirements – will ensure broadband businesses behave.

The State Attorneys General contend the FCC's order is unlawful. They have asked [PDF] the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC to find the order "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion" under the law.

Charges

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra argued that without the net neutrality protections as defined in the 2015 rules, ISPs may impose excess charges for faster internet service while limiting the ability of citizens to access certain content.

"Internet access is a utility – just like water and electricity," said Becerra in a statement. "And every consumer has a right to access online content without interference or manipulation by their internet service provider."

History has shown that service providers are willing to block services for their benefit, to the detriment of consumers. As documented by advocacy group Free Press, in 2005 Comcast blocked its customers from using peer-to-peer file-sharing services on its network. And from 2011 through 2013, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon blocked Google Wallet because they were collaborating on a payment service called Isis, before that name became a terror brand.

Joining Becerra are the Attorneys General of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Firefox maker wades in

Separately, Mozilla, maker of Firefox and advocate for internet openness, filed its own complaint. The complaint filed by the browser maker and search box seller echoes that filed by the states.

"[W]e believe the recent FCC decision violates both federal law as well as harms internet users and innovators," Mozilla said in its blog post. "In fact, it really only benefits large Internet Service Providers."

Meanwhile, Senator Ed Markey (D–MA)'s bid last month to have Congress overturn the FCC order using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) needs only one more vote to succeed.

In his announcement of the revised rules, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, argued that Americans don't care about being denied access to services or content. He says they want competition, which he somehow sees following from reduced regulation.

"The main complaint consumers have about the Internet is not and has never been that their Internet service provider is blocking access to content," he said. "It's that they don't have access at all or enough competition." ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily

54 Comments

More from The Register

FCC backtracks on helping with neutrality fraud investigation

Eager to cut ISP regulation, the agency shows concern for privacy of comment forgers

California Senate OKs net neutrality law, gives FCC cold hard long stare

F U FCC say lawmakers as bill passes to Assembly

When uploading comments to the FCC, you can now include malware

And this is the agency that wants to regulate the internet

Pressure mounts on FCC to cough up answers over fake net neutrality comments

Analysis House Dems send snotagram to watchdog boss

Robocall crackdown, choked Lifelines, and pole-climbing: Your new FCC rules roundup

Fresh round of overhauls, and some aren't happy about it

No, the FCC can't shut down TV stations just because Donald Trump is mad at the news

America hasn't gone full-blown crazy, yet

Verizon whips out Big Johnson to lure FCC into axing US states' net neutrality, privacy rules

'Light touch' must be enforced with a heavy hand, says telco

FCC blames DDoS for weekend web lockout

Vid Not down to people trying to file comments on issues rhyming with wetsuit balloty, it insists

FCC: LEO ISPs A-OK

OneWeb gets green light to pipe internet through 720 orbiting satellites

FCC boss Ajit Pai emits his net neutrality extermination plan

Just in time for Thanksgiving when no one will notice