The Internet Association, a Washington trade group representing prominent tech companies including Facebook, Google and Netflix, announced plans Friday January 5th to help sue the federal government over its decision to rescind Obama era FCC regulations that guaranteed equal access to the Internet (AKA “net neutrality”). The Association said it would act as an “intervenor” in expected litigation over the FCC’s action.
That means that the Association won’t file its own lawsuit, but would join a legal action filed by others. Public interest groups and some state attorneys general have said they intend to challenge the repeal in court.
Net neutrality supporters argue that agency’s plan is illegal under federal laws that prohibit “arbitrary and capricious” changes in regulations, and that the agency didn’t gather sufficient public input on its proposal to overturn its old rules.
“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers,” Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, said in a statement. “This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet. IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution.”
The FCC on Thursday posted the final text version of its new Internet rules, which it calls “Restoring Internet Freedom” (do you believe that?). Those rules are expected to enter the Federal Register in the coming weeks.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (pictured above), has said the repeal of the rules will free ISPs from regulatory burdens that harm investment. He was scheduled to speak at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, but canceled due to death threats according to Recode which stated that the cancellation was in response to security concerns.
Pai has received sharp criticism since the vote, but defended his position by saying the rules were a heavy-handed approach to government regulation. Pai canceled a planned appearance at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas next week because of death threats, technology website Recode reported Friday. It is unclear whether the threats were connected to Pai’s net neutrality decision, which has drawn rancor on social media.
Congressional and Legal Challenges:
U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is seeking to secure the votes that would force a vote to reverse the FCC’s action and restore the rules, via the Congressional Review Act. The move would be somewhat symbolic, as many Republicans support the FCC’s decision and President Donald Trump would be expected to veto such an action, if it were ever to reach his desk.
This week, California state Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill that requires telecommunications companies doing business in the state to guarantee equal Internet access. State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, is backing a similar bill. Efforts are also under way in New York and Washington state to write their own rules guaranteeing equal Internet access to consumers.
Several government officials and advocacy groups have said they plan legal action, but they all have to wait until the FCC repeal order is published in the Federal Register.
Opinions and Other Voices:
Noah Theran, an Internet Association spokesman, said open Internet rules helped level the playing field among companies, both small and large, in terms of their ability to reach people.
“The best websites and apps should win in a competitive marketplace because consumers like and use them, not because an ISP is picking winners and losers online by speeding up, blocking, or throttling access to certain sites,” Theran said in an email.
AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn said in a blog post after the December 2017 vote that “the Internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.” He added that the company won’t block, censor or slow traffic to websites “based on content, nor unfairly discriminate in our treatment of Internet traffic.”
As expected, video streaming giant Netflix sharply criticized the December FCC vote to end net neutrality. “Today’s decision is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix will stand with innovators, large and small, to oppose this misguided FCC order,” the Los Gatos, CA company said in a statement.
in 2006 Google co-founder Sergey Brin traveled to Washington, DC to make the case for net neutrality. Yet the internet giants were eerily quiet last year, other than filing comments with the FCC in support of the Obama-era rules, and placing a few notifications on their websites during the Day of Action. Apple is conspicuously missing from the group, but broke a long silence on the topic of net neutrality last year when it filed its own FCC comment in support of net neutrality.
Emmett Shear, CEO of the popular San Francisco video game streaming company Twitch, now owned by Amazon.com, said startups like his were able to succeed because of net neutrality.
“Without it, we might not be here today, and our streamers might not be here tomorrow,” Shear said in a blog post written in anticipation of the FCC’s reversal.
In response to an IEEE member email, I hereby provide background on the 2015 Net Neutrality FCC decision to classify the Internet as a regulated service under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. Specifically: