States Back Net Neutrality in Appeal to DC Circuit

(CN) – Defending the Obama-era policy that bars internet service providers from interfering in download speeds, nearly two dozen state attorneys general urged the D.C. Circuit to block the rollback of net neutrality.

“By repealing net neutrality, the FCC is allowing internet service providers to put their profits before consumers while controlling what we see, do, and say online,” New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement Monday announcing the brief.

New York has been forefront of states fighting to keep net neutrality since the Federal Communications Commission voted last year to repeal it.

Her brief, clocking in at 56 pages before signatures, declarations and exhibits, asserts that the FCC’s rollback would pre-empt state and local regulations, and that it is “arbitrary and capricious” because it puts consumers and public safety at risk.

“As we detail in our brief … the rollback of net neutrality will have a devastating impact on millions of New Yorkers and Americans across the country,” Underwood said.

Apart from fellow attorneys general, Underwood’s brief was joined by the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, which says its systems rely on good internet and easy communication access to the public.

Underwood said the same logic goes for hospitals and countywide alert systems like evacuation and shelter-in-place orders, as well as information on disease outbreaks.

“Significant delays from blocking, throttling, or deprioritization could impede effective notification and jeopardize safety in public-health emergencies,” Underwood said, later adding: “Because governments are obligated to be cost conscious, neither governments nor the businesses that serve them are likely to pay to prioritize their traffic.”

The brief also claims the FCC killed net neutrality without an enforcement mechanism for bad actors, arguing it is a “flawed” assumption that “providers’ voluntary commitments coupled with existing consumer protection laws provide sufficient protection.”

The coalition of attorneys general represents over 165 million people, approximately half the U.S. population, according to the brief.

“For more than fifteen years, the Federal Communications Commission has agreed that an open Internet free from blocking, throttling, or other interference by service providers is critical to ensure that all Americans have access to the advanced telecommunications services that have become essential for daily life,” the brief states. “The recent order represents a dramatic and unjustified departure from this long-standing commitment.”

In May, all Senate Democrats plus three Republicans — Senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – voted 52-47 to pass a resolution that reversed the FCC’s repeal.

But their resolution only reinstated rules temporarily, ultimately leaving the final decision up to a vote in the House of Representatives.

While portions of the old net-neutrality rules went into effect immediately following the Senate vote in May, the bulk of the rollback’s stipulations required final approval from the Office of Management and Budget no later than June 11.

Without traction in the House, and no changes at the OMB, the bid to preserve net neutrality died in Congress.

“The internet is the core infrastructure of the 21st century,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement Tuesday. “Barriers to its access are essentially barriers to doing business, connecting with family and friends, and educating your loved ones. We must fight to preserve net neutrality.”

Representatives at the offices of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and the Santa Clara County Fire Department, all parties on the brief, did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.

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