21 States Sue To Block Trump FCC Repeal Of Obama-era Net Neutrality, Open Internet

by Samuel Abasi Last updated on May 2nd, 2018,

Washington, DC, USA: The attorneys general of 21 states filed a multi-state lawsuit Tuesday, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to block the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, open internet.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who is leading the multi-state petition, said the FCC’s decision to rescind net neutrality rules was illegal and allows Internet service providers to block certain content, charge more to access certain sites and slow down the service for content providers that don’t pay more.

“An open Internet, and the free exchange of ideas it allows, is critical to our democratic process. The repeal of net neutrality would turn 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,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

In addition to New York, other states that have joined the lawsuit include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality also prevents states from being able to protect their consumers from illegal actions taken by Internet service providers.

“Allowing powerful special interest to act as the Internet’s gatekeepers harms consumers, innovation and small businesses,” Ferguson said in a statement. “We believe the FCC acted unlawfully when it gutted net neutrality, and I look forward to holding the FCC accountable to the rule of law,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.

Ferguson is involved in an ongoing lawsuit against Comcast on behalf of Washingtonians who said the cable and Internet giant enrolled thousands of people in services they didn’t ask for.

As the FCC faces a lawsuit from several states, the agency may also have to worry about Senate Democrats. On Tuesday, Senator Ed Markey, Democratic-Mass., said the entire Democratic caucus is co-sponsoring legislation that will repeal the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality rules.

“There is a tsunami of congressional and grassroots support to overturn the FCC’s partisan and misguided decision on net neutrality,” Senator Ed Markey said.

EARLIER : Democrats Take Fight Against Net Neutrality Repeal To Senate Floor – Senate Democrats are moving – using an obscure procedural tactic – to force a floor vote on a resolution that would block Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from repealing the Obama-era net neutrality rules which required internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.

Democrats want to force a vote- to stop net neutrality repeal – under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA gives lawmakers a chance to review federal regulations after they are issued.

CRA bills require a simple majority in both chambers and the president’s signature to become law.

By Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), an outspoken net neutrality supporter, said the CRA resolution had amassed 40 co-sponsors.

By forcing a roll call vote on protecting the rules, Democrats, with an eye on the November midterm elections, are hoping to redirect public outrage -nover the FCC’s decision last month to roll back the rules— toward congressional Republicans.

“Millennials were born into a world with a free and open internet,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“It’s as integral to their daily lives as a morning cup of coffee,” he said. “So when the administration rips it from their hands and hands it over to the big [internet service providers] on a silver platter, millennials will know that Republicans were responsible — you can bet Democrats are going to make sure of that.”

one Republican, Senator Susan Collins (Maine) announced Tuesday that she would back the legislation, meaning the net-neutrality bill would need just one more vote to pass the Senate.

Even if Democrats manage to get the bill through the Senate, it’s unlikely to pass the House, where Republicans have defended the FCC’s action as necessary. And even if the CRA resolution cleared both chambers of Congress, it’s possible that Trump would veto it.

But Democrats are undeterred, seeing a huge upside in putting the issue to a vote during an election year.

“Our Republican colleagues need to take a side.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said at Tuesday’s press conference. “They have a choice: they can be with the consumers or they can be with the special interests.”

“There will be a political price to pay for those who are on the wrong side of history,” Markey said.

For their part, Republicans have been pushing for a legislative compromise to replace the FCC’s rules. The GOP largely opposed the Obama-era regulations as too heavy-handed, but many members think that a replacement bill could preserve some of the consumer protections without stifling the broadband industry.

EARLIER : Internet Association : Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, To Sue To Stop Net Neutrality Repeal – Washington, DC, USA: The Internet Association, a trade group representing tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, and Netflix, announced Friday that it will be joining a growing list of net neutrality supporters – Consumer groups and state attorneys general – who plan to sue the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stop its repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality consumer protections.

“The final version of Chairman [Ajit] Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers,” Michael Beckerman…This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet.” the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement

FCC Chaiman, Ajit Pai, released the final text of the new rules on Thursday. They get rid of the Obama-era regulations requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.

Pai has argued that the 2015 order was too heavy-handed and that existing laws are sufficient to ensure an open internet.

But net neutrality supporters believe that the rules are needed to prevent broadband providers from abusing their control over internet access.

The Internet Association on Friday also reiterated its call for Congress to come up with a legislative replacement for the rules, a course that most net neutrality supporters reject out of concern that lawmakers won’t be willing to implement sufficient protections.

EARLIER : Trump FCC Rescinds Obama-Era Open Internet Order, Net Neutrality – Washington, DC, USA: The Federal Communications Commission, FCC, led by Trump-appointed Republican Chairman Ajit Pai – a former Verizon Lawyer, on Thursday voted to end the 2015 Obama-era “Open Internet Order,” better known as “net neutrality” regulations which governed internet service providers as communication service providers.

The net neutrality rule required internet service providers to treat all internet traffic as equal. Now telecommunications and cable companies will be allowed to price various online activities that use bandwidth at different rates.

The decision will give more power to internet service providers (ISPs) to set pricing and prioritize different types of internet traffic.

That could change how you access and pay for internet service. Now telecommunications and cable companies will be allowed to price various online activities that use bandwidth at different rates.

For example, because streaming video takes up more bandwidth than reading text-based sites, companies could charge more. Removing the regulations may also allow ISPs to stifle services that compete with their own, including over-the-top streaming platforms such as Netflix.

The Open Internet Order, which was set in place during President Barack Obama’s administration in 2015, regulated ISPs in the same way as telecoms, requiring telecommunications and cable companies to treat all online traffic as equal.

With Republicans controlling a majority of the commission’s seats, the repeal passed 3-to-2 along party lines.

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg hammered the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its decision to roll back net neutrality rules on Thursday.

In a statement, Sandberg called on Congress to pursue legislation enshrining such rules as law.

“Today’s decision from the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality is disappointing and harmful,” Sandberg said.

“An open internet is critical for new ideas and economic opportunity – and internet providers shouldn’t be able to decide what people can see online or charge more for certain websites. We’re ready to work with members of Congress and others to help make the internet free and open for everyone.”

The Open Internet Order – Net Neutrality

President Barack Obama’s FCC began working on the rule in 2010, and it was implemented in 2015.

The measure, according to the FCC, is a set of “strong, sustainable rules grounded in multiple sources of legal authority to protect the Open Internet and ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an Open Internet today and into the future.”

It declares that ISPs are regulated under something called Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This regulation has been applied in the past to companies like phone networks — it requires that all phone carriers deliver your call, no matter where you’re calling from or which service provider you use.

Previously, ISPs were regulated under Title I, which classified them as information services.

Republicans argue that forcing internet service providers to treat all traffic equally will curtail ISPs’ incentive to invest in infrastructure upgrades and stifle innovation that would bring consumers better service. As you’d expect, the ISPs agree with them. Comcast, the country’s largest ISP, actively lobbied to end the 2015 Obama-era “Open Internet Order,” better known as “net neutrality” regulations .

Democrats and internet content companies argue that if ISPs are not explicitly banned from treating different internet traffic in different ways, they will use this power to charge higher rates for certain types of traffic, stifling the free flow of information in order to bolster their profits.

One of Pai’s core arguments for reversing the act is that it has stifled competition among smaller ISPs. But some lawmakers, including Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, disagree and are in favor of keeping ISPs under Act II. “Consumers should be able to use the internet on the device they want, using the apps and services they want without their internet provider standing in the way,” Pelosi said in June.

There are also fears that ISPs will throttle data and could potentially block access to services that they fear are in direct competition with their own offerings. Imagine, for example, if one provider blocked Netflix because it wants its customers to instead view its own suite of on-demand movies and TV shows.

The Verge’s Nilay Patel thinks that reversing the act will make the internet landscape will look a lot more like mobile broadband. There, carriers are already doing all sorts of things that are not allowed if they’re regulated under Title II.

For example, wireless carriers can throttle data to slower speeds if you use too much, charge you for different internet usage features (like using your phone as a hotspot), and tack on fees if you want to stream video in HD.

With the current act in place, ISPs can’t do what we’re seeing in mobile.

Title II also gives the FCC the ability to tell ISPs to stop doing something, like throttling data, while Title I does not.

What the FCC vote on Thursday means

The FCC at an open commission meeting in Washington, voted in favor of what it calls “Restoring Internet Freedom,” which now returns “broadband Internet access service to its prior classification as an information service, and reinstates the private mobile service classification on mobile broadband Internet access.”

In other words, it voted to  move internet services back to Title I from Title II, reversing President Barack Obama’s FCC Open Internet Order.

By applying Title II to ISPs, the FCC essentially ruled that internet providers can’t block traffic or charge competitors different prices to access their services. All data under President Barack Obama’s FCC Open Internet Order should be treated equally.

President Donald Trump’s FCC has ended that. “Restoring Internet Freedom” indeed – Government will still be regulating the internet, just in a way that allows providers to fleece consumers and block content

EARLIER : FCC Plan to Kill Net Neutrality, End Open Internet, Sparks Widespread Backlash – The Trump admin plan – championed by Former Verizon Lawyer, now FCC Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai – to repeal net neutrality provisions and reclassify broadband providers from “common carriers” to “information services” in an unprecedented giveaway to big broadband providers has sparked widespread backlash and outrage.

FCC Draft Order on Net Neutrality went beyond reclassification of broadband providers from Title II common carriers to Title I information services. The Draft Order removes all net neutrality protections and allow ISPs to extract tolls from every business.

Today, small and medium-size businesses rely on a myriad online business services for internal communications, sales, and accounting, to name just a few. Slack, Dropbox, Gusto, Quickbooks, and thousands more would have to pay access charges and fast-lane fees, costs they would likely have to pass to their customers.

Non-mainstream media news sources across the political spectrum would no longer be able to afford to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Even churches that now reach their members online with streaming sermons, video libraries, and online video chats, would no longer be protected from blocking or access fees.

Since the order was released, Congress has reportedly been flooded with more than half a million protest calls.

So far senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the only Republican member of Congress who has explicitly criticized Pai’s plan and has come out on the side of the internet.

If Congress allows Pai’s plan to pass, all that will be left of FCC oversight of broadband providers is a weak disclosure requirement: If Verizon, for example, wants to block content, charge sites to be viewable on its network, or create paid fast lanes, the company will simply have to tell its subscribers in their contract’s fine print. (Broadband providers won’t have to disclose, and the FCC won’t have control over, the sneakier ways they’ve found to mess with the internet.)

Enforcement will be left to the Federal Trade Commission, an agency that’s never enforced open internet rules and has no ability to formulate its own. The FTC won’t even be able to protect consumers against most net neutrality violations after the fact, and nor will it be able to protect consumers against greedy broadband providers.

And violations will come if Pai’s plan passes.

For years, broadband providers have used lawsuits and agency filings to fight FCC oversight and overturn its authority to prevent net neutrality abuses.

Verizon sued to challenge the 2010 open internet rules. It told a federal court that as an “information service” it had the right to charge online services like Yelp access fees simply to work on its network and should be able block those sites from Verizon subscribers if Yelp didn’t pay. (Verizon won that case, leading to the 2015 order and the reclassification of broadband providers as “common carriers”.)

The 2015 order, replacing the one Verizon had overturned, recognized this as a threat and prohibited ISPs from charging sites and services simply to reach their users.

FCC Chairman, Republican Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, apparently had an epiphany. Now his plan would usher in a radical upending of how the internet has worked in the US since its inception, to the benefit of Verizon and other broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.

Every website would have to pay more to simply be online; prices for online services would likely rise as companies start to pay broadband providers to be in fast lanes, while broadband providers would find even sneakier ways to enact tolls on the internet, free of any agency able to set rules to stop them.

Members of Congress have an opportunity to either side with their constituents, who overwhelmingly want them to defend the greatest communication and innovation platform ever invented, or support one of the most blatant anti-consumer corporate giveaways in modern history.

Pai’s plan will create a crises for entrepreneurs, free markets, free speech, and for Republican members of Congress running for re-election who didn’t make the choice to stop Pai when they had the chance.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, ATT & Verizon should not control what we see and do online. In 2015, startups, Internet freedom groups, and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The rules prohibit Internet providers from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—”fast lanes” for sites that pay, and slow lanes for everyone else.

It is ironic for the FCC to call a rollback of net neutrality “internet freedom.” Government will still be regulating the internet, just in a way that allows providers to fleece consumers and block content.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on Thursday, December 14, to overturn its 2015 net neutrality rules, which require broadband providers to treat all internet traffic equally.

With Republicans controlling a majority of the commission’s seats, the repeal is expected to pass 3-to-2 along party lines.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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