Internet Providers Take On Vermont Net Neutrality

BURLINGTON, Vt. (CN) – A coalition of industry groups representing internet service providers sued Vermont on Thursday in an effort to overturn its recently enacted net neutrality rules requiring all internet traffic to be treated equally. 

In a 39-page federal lawsuit, The American Cable Association, CTIA, NCTA, New England Cable & Telecommunications Association and USTelecom say that rules passed by Vermont lawmakers and those enacted through executive order by Republican Governor Phil Scott violate the 1996 Telecommunications Act by trying to regulate internet service at the state level.

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The industry groups – which represent providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T – argue that the nature of internet service, which exists beyond state boundaries, makes it inappropriate for states to enforce their own regulation.

“As the FCC has repeatedly recognized, internet traffic flows freely between states, making it difficult or impossible for a provider to distinguish traffic moving within Vermont from traffic that crosses state borders,” the complaint states. “Both the Supremacy Clause and the dormant Commerce Clause protect broadband internet service providers from a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that are impossible for them to comply with as a practical matter.”

The plaintiffs are represented locally by attorneys from Paul Frank + Collins, and nationally by attorneys from Kellogg, Hansen, Todd,  Figel & Frederick as well as Mololamken LLP and Latham & Watkins.

Governor Scott said in a statement that he is “disappointed” that the state is being sued “for taking action to protect our citizens and our economy.”

“While I understand consistent regulation is important to ensuring a vibrant and thriving telecom and cable sector, our obligation as a state government is to our citizens, who I strongly believe have a right to free and open access to information on the internet,” he said. “In the absence of a national standard to protect that right, states must act.”

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality regulations that prevented internet service providers from slowing down access to certain web sites and from charging certain steaming services for their users’ access.

In the wake of the repeal, Vermont, along with Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana and Rhode Island, have enacted net neutrality regulations through executive orders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California also recently passed its own net neutrality bill, drawing a lawsuit from the Justice Department just hours after Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law.

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