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Twenty-two states ask appeals court to reinstate net neutrality rules

Regulators are concerned about the effects for consumers

Photo (c) Zerbor - Getty Images
Late last night, 22 state attorneys general filed a brief asking the appeals court to reinstate the net neutrality rules that were founded under the Obama administration. President Trump’s administration has effectively worked to overturn those regulations, and the group is trying to prevent individual states from creating their own regulations.

The attorneys general argued that the decision made in January by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was not well thought out and will eventually “cause [inevitable harms] to consumers, public safety, and existing regulatory schemes.” The senders also assert that the commission “entirely ignored many of these issues” when the decision was made.

The group is primarily concerned about consumers’ public safety, as it is one of the agency’s main tenets.

Additionally, the attorneys general wrote that the FCC deliberately disregarded clear evidence that proved internet providers aren’t as honest as they claim to be when consumers are concerned. Despite “substantial record evidence showing that [broadband] providers have abused...and will abuse their gatekeeper roles in ways that harm consumers and threaten public safety,” the FCC accepted industry promises.

Abdicating responsibility to consumers

The brief was led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who was joined by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The regulators’ arguments supplement an ongoing lawsuit against the FCC, and they are joined by several other groups including: Mozilla, Vimeo, Etsy, Free Press, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, among others. These groups filed a separate brief last night, in which they called the FCC’s actions “a wholesale abdication of its statutory responsibilities.”

With the lawsuit, the states are hoping to overturn the 2017 decision by ruling it “arbitrary and capricious.” Doing so would indicate that the FCC didn’t consider the full extent of consequences this decision would have. Federal agencies are given clearance to make decisions -- so long as they are within legal authority -- but the agencies must be able to justify all such decisions. With regards to net neutrality, the FCC must prove the decision to eliminate the regulations was done properly.

Push to reinstate net neutrality

The main goal of the lawsuit is to reinstate net neutrality. However, should the courts not grant that request, the states are looking to instate their own net neutrality regulations and have the court do away with part of the FCC’s order that bans states from having their own rules.

Despite members of Congress, state officials, tech companies, and advocacy groups fighting to keep net neutrality, it was officially overturned in June. Though the Senate voted in May to keep net neutrality, the vote was mostly symbolic and the final decision had to be voted through the Republican majority House of Representatives.

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