The battle for net neutrality has reached the court, with a slew of states and public interest groups levying the first legal challenge to the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rollback.
A group of 22 U.S. state attorneys general — including those of California, New York and Virginia — have filed a lawsuit to challenge the FCC’s decision to repeal its net neutrality protections.
The petition, filed with a federal appeals court in Washington, alleges that the FCC’s move violates federal law and regulations.
The lawsuit asks the court to determine if the repeal is “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.” It also argues that the FCC wrongly reclassified broadband access as a Title I information service, rather than a Title II service. Providers of Title II services are usually subject to regulations and standards akin to telephone, gas and electric providers.
“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,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
A petition to challenge isn’t normally filed until rule changes actually take effect — which the net neutrality rollbacks will do later this year. As such, states said they filed the suit “with an abundance of caution.”
Several public interest groups announced that they have also filed similar petitions, including Mozilla and consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. The latter organization announced that it had filed a “purely procedural move” challenging the FCC rollback.
Senate Democrats also announced on Tuesday that they are just one vote shy of a majority that would allow them to nullify the FCC’s net neutrality rollback, Reuters reported. That measure faces an uphill battle, however. It would need to be approved by the House of Representatives, and if it can achieve that, it’s still likely to be vetoed by President Trump. Overturning a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote from both the House and the Senate.
In other words, for net neutrality advocates, the hope for a free and open internet likely hinges on a successful legal challenge or a decision in court.