States are suing the FCC to try to save net neutrality

Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C., are suing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a bid to reinstate net neutrality rules. 

The FCC voted in December to overturn the net neutrality laws, put in place by President Obama.

The states are being led by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and intend to fight the Trump administration’s repeal of the rules that were designed to ensure an open and free internet.

The commission’s order overturning the rules was published in the Federal Register today and revealed the laws are set to expire on April 23.

The order’s publication allows legal challenges to be filed against it.

In December the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) overturned net neutrality rules instated under President Obama. Today 22 states and Washington, D.C., filed legal charges against the FCC to prevent the rules from being overturned. The protesters opposing the FCC’s decision were in Washington, D.C.

Last month the states joined web browser developer Mozilla Corp and video-sharing platform Vimeo Inc in filing petitions ensuring their right to sue.

However, they withdrew the petitions last Friday, agreeing to wait until the FCC published its official order that came out today.

Among the states that have filed charges are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The attorneys general who are suing argue that the FCC cannot make ‘arbitrary and capricious’ changes to existing policies. 

The Republican-led FCC in December voted three to two to overturn the 2015 rules barring service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content on the internet.

Protestor Diane Tepfer held a sign with an image of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outside FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. Her sign labeled Pai as the 'Grinch who Stole the Internet', as the FCC's net neutrality decision came just before Christmas last year

Protestor Diane Tepfer held a sign with an image of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outside FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. Her sign labeled Pai as the ‘Grinch who Stole the Internet’, as the FCC’s net neutrality decision came just before Christmas last year

Schneiderman said: ‘Repealing net neutrality will allow internet service providers to put corporate profits over consumers by controlling what we see, do, and say online.’ 

But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was confident the order would be upheld, according to a statement from his office.

The White House Office of Management and Budget must sign off on some aspects of the net neutrality reversal before it takes effect, and that could take months.


Net neutrality is the basic principle that all internet traffic should be be treated equally.

Whether you’re trying to buy a necklace on Etsy, stream a series on Netflix, or upload a photo to Facebook, your internet service provider has to load all of those websites equally quickly.

If net neutrality is lost, internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon could create special ‘fast lanes’ for content providers willing to pay more.

Customers of streaming services like Netflix could see their subscription fees rise if the company chooses to pay more.

US Senate Democrats, who hold 49 seats in the 100-person chamber, have the backing of 50 senators for repeal, leaving them one vote short of a majority.

Congressional aides said the official order triggered a 60-legislative-day deadline for Congress to vote on whether to overturn the FCC’s decision.

Democrats need 51 votes to win any proposal in the Republican-controlled Senate because Vice President Mike Pence can break any tie.

Even if Democrats do win a Senate majority, reinstatement of net neutrality would also require a favorable vote in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a larger majority.

The reinstatement would still then be subject to a likely veto by President Trump.

The repeal of the net neutrality rules was a victory for internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, conferring power over what content consumers can access.

On the other side, technology firms including Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc and Facebook have thrown their weight behind the congressional bid to reverse the net neutrality repeal.

The FCC’s December decision also sought to preempt states from imposing their own net neutrality rules.

But governors in Vermont, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey and New York have signed orders pledging to do business only with internet providers that abide by net neutrality rules.