States, Activists Challenge FCC Rollback of Net-Neutrality Rules -- Update

FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

State attorneys general and internet activists filed legal challenges to the Federal Communications Commission's recent rollback of Obama-era internet regulations, launching a legal battle that could go on for years.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and more than 20 other officials filed their combined petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Continue Reading Below

The appeal alleges the FCC's December rollback of so-called net-neutrality rules was "arbitrary and capricious" and failed to justify the abrupt turnaround, given the government's longstanding support for the policy, according to a release. The challenge also says the new FCC order improperly pre-empted state and local efforts to impose net-neutrality rules on internet service providers.

The FCC didn't immediately comment on the suits. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has argued that the Obama-era net-neutrality rules were hurting investment in broadband infrastructure.

The open-internet rules require internet service providers such as Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to treat all traffic equally. The rules were strongly supported by internet companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google unit.

"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," Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.

Attorneys general from California, 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 joined in the challenge.

Internet activist group Free Press also filed a petition challenging the FCC rollback on Tuesday. Its petition was filed in U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Massachusetts.

Much of the early legal maneuvering in the challenges will focus on attempting to influence which federal circuit court of appeals will ultimately handle the appeal, according to people familiar with the process.

Write to John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com

WASHINGTON -- State attorneys general and internet activists filed legal challenges to the Federal Communications Commission's recent rollback of Obama-era internet regulations, launching a legal battle that could go on for years.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and more than 20 other officials filed their combined petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The appeal alleges the FCC's December rollback of so-called net-neutrality rules was "arbitrary and capricious" and failed to justify the abrupt turnaround, given the government's longstanding support for the policy, according to a release. The challenge also says the new FCC order improperly pre-empted state and local efforts to impose net-neutrality rules on internet service providers.

The FCC didn't immediately comment on the suits. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has argued that the Obama-era net-neutrality rules were hurting investment in broadband infrastructure. Republicans on the FCC also have criticized many of the Obama-era rules as government overreach.

The open-internet rules require internet service providers such as Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to treat all traffic equally. The rules were strongly supported by internet companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google unit.

"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," Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.

Attorneys general from California, 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 joined in the challenge.

The new FCC order would reinstate the authority of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate internet service providers. The Obama-era rules effectively stripped away the FTC's authority over internet providers by declaring them to be common carriers.

A number of internet activist groups filed similar challenges on Tuesday. Mozilla Corp., the maker of open-source Firefox, filed its petition in federal court in Washington, D.C., as did the Open Technology Institute, a part of the New America Foundation. Another group, Free Press, filed a petition challenging the FCC rollback in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Massachusetts.

Much of the early legal maneuvering in the challenges will focus on attempting to influence which federal circuit court of appeals will ultimately handle the appeal, according to people familiar with the process.

The Open Technology Institute, for example, said it filed its petition "in an abundance of caution to ensure that, if a lottery is held determining the proper venue for the case at this stage, the D.C. Circuit is included in the selection process."

Write to John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 16, 2018 17:52 ET (22:52 GMT)

Continue Reading Below