23 Attorneys General Urge Appeals Court To Restore Net Neutrality
from the round-and-round-we-go dept
As expected, Mozilla, 22 State attorneys general, INCOMPAS, and numerous consumer groups this week asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate FCC net neutrality rules. The state AGs, led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, filed a lawsuit back in January attempting to overturn the repeal, arguing that the decision will ultimately be a “disaster for New York consumers and businesses.” Mozilla and a few other companies also filed suit, as well as consumer groups including Free Press and Public Knowledge.
The AG’s statement— as well as the brief (pdf) filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late Monday night–not only urges the court to restore the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules, but asks the court to scuttle ISP and FCC efforts to block states from protecting consumers:
“The government petitioners? brief focuses on two critical issues: first, that the FCC?s order is arbitrary and capricious because it puts consumers at risk of abusive practices by broadband providers, jeopardizes public safety, and more; and second, that the FCC?s order unlawfully purports to preempt state and local regulation of broadband service.”
As we’ve noted previously, both Comcast and Verizon successfully lobbied the FCC to include language in its “Restoring Internet Freedom” order that attempts to “pre-empt” (read: neuter) state authority over broadband ISPs. ISPs like Charter (Spectrum) have already tried to use this language to wiggle out of state lawsuits over terrible service and false advertising, though the courts so far haven’t thought much of the effort. ISPs have threatened to sue states that try to pass state level net neutrality laws in response to federal apathy, but those suits have yet to materialize.
While Facebook and Google have been largely AWOL from the net neutrality fight this go round, INCOMPAS also jumped into the mix this week, issuing its own filing and statement getting to the crux of the issue, a lack of competition in broadband:
“At its core, net neutrality is a competition issue. The FCC?s own order acknowledged that nearly 50 percent of consumers are living in a broadband monopoly. Yet, in the face of a brazenly uncompetitive marketplace, the FCC abandoned two decades of bipartisan consensus that ISPs should not block, throttle, implement paid prioritization, or otherwise harm online content by engaging in anticompetitive behavior.
“The FCC also refused to consider extremely relevant findings from previous merger investigations involving ISPs that control access to almost 65 percent of consumers, which found that despite their public statements to the contrary, ISPs have the means and motive to interfere with online content they perceive as a threat.”
US telecom, a lobbying organization primarily funded and managed by AT&T, issued a statement responding to the filings that claimed the repeal of net neutrality was no big deal because the internet has yet to implode:
“As this case winds its way through federal court, it is worth noting what has not happened since the FCC?s order: the internet as we know it is still thriving, growing, open and continues to spin on its axis. The predictions made by some that ISPs would engage in throttling, blocking, and anti-competitive prioritization, have not happened.”
Of course ISPs like AT&T have only behaved so far because they know this lawsuit could easily go badly, and they’re not keen on adding any fuel to the fire before the court fight heats up (oral arguments should arrive sometime in the fall). All of today’s filers are eager to show that the FCC not only violated agency procedures, but violated laws like the Administrative Procedures Act by basing such a stark reversal of policy on little more than fluff and nonsense.