The early filings set the stage for a fight over whether the agency erred in killing its open internet rules
Attorneys general from 22 states, tech companies like Mozilla and other staunch net neutrality advocates filed lawsuits on Tuesday in an attempt to overturn FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent repeal of rules that require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.
In petitions filed in a Washington, D.C., appeals court, supporters of those protections each slammed Pai for acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner, adding that the FCC chairman had essentially ignored the public’s pleas to preserve the U.S. government’s online safeguards.
Among the early challengers is Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, who is leading a coalition of 22 states that feel Pai has essentially turned “internet service providers into gatekeepers — allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online,” he said in a statement.
Mozilla, which makes the popular Firefox browser, also said it had petitioned the court for review. The Open Technology Institute, an arm of the New America think tank, did the same.
The public interest group Free Press and crafts marketplace Etsy are also expected to sue the FCC eventually. And they’re slated to have the support of tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google in the fight, as Recode previously reported.
The barrage of early lawsuits comes about a month after Pai led the vote at the FCC to undo rules implemented under former President Barack Obama, which prevented AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon from blocking or slowing down websites, or charging companies for faster delivery of their content.
Nor is it the only way that net neutrality supporters are angling to repeal Pai’s repeal, so to speak. On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers are forging ahead with plans to force a vote on a resolution that might restore net neutrality protections to the U.S. government’s rulebooks — though they do not appear to have the votes to succeed.
In both cases, though, the war is just beginning. Technically, Pai’s effort to scrap the FCC’s open internet safeguards isn’t official, because the full text of his order has not yet been published in a little-known government repository called the Federal Register. Only then can challenges — on Capitol Hill and in federal courts — proceed.
Mozilla and its peers, however, each said they petitioned federal court anyway — out of caution.
“Due to the importance of this issue, even though we believe the filing date should be later, we filed in the event a court determines the appropriate date is today,” wrote Denelle Dixon, the company’s chief legal and business officer, in a blog post. “The FCC or a court may accept this order or require us and others to refile at a later date.”
* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.
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