WASHINGTON – The attorneys general of New York and Washington states said on Thursday that they will file lawsuits to prevent the US Federal Communications Commission from carrying out its decision to abolish net-neutrality rules for the Internet.
Within hours of the FCC’s move, New York’s Eric Schneiderman said that other states would be joining him in a legal challenge.
“The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers (ISPs) yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers,” he said in a statement.
“Today’s new rule would enable ISPs to charge consumers more to access sites like Facebook and Twitter and give them the leverage to degrade (the) high quality of video streaming until and unless somebody pays them more money. Even worse, today’s vote would enable ISPs to favor certain viewpoints over others,” Schneiderman said.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson likewise announced plans to sue to block the FCC action.
In a party-line vote, the three Republican commissioners on the FCC voted to reverse so-called “Title II” regulations that classified the Internet as a public utility and required broadband providers to treat all Web traffic equally.
The two Democrats voted to preserve net neutrality, introduced in 2015 under then-President Barack Obama.
Under that framework, broadband service providers were barred from blocking or slowing content from certain Web sites.
Once the new regulation takes effect, ISPs will be free to offer packages that provide consumers with access to only certain content or applications but not others, or provide fast lanes that make some services, such as streaming video, superior to rival services.
Those providers, however, will be subject to “robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers’ conduct,” the FCC said in a statement.
The FCC said the regulation in place since 2015 had been “heavy-handed” and “imposed substantial costs on the entire Internet ecosystem.”
But the two Democratic commissioners warned of the negative consequences of the scrapping of net neutrality, saying that giving Internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T the power to treat Web traffic unequally would harm consumers and small content providers who will be unable to afford the costs associated with having their traffic prioritized.
Schneiderman said Wednesday that the vote should be delayed, saying an investigation carried out by his office found that a consultation process conducted by the FCC had been corrupted by 2 million fake comments.
The push to scrap net neutrality was led by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, who was appointed to the FCC in 2012 by Obama and became chairman of the commission earlier this year under President Donald Trump.