A group of 22 state Attorneys General have filed a lawsuit to stop the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality. Led by New York State AG Eric Schneiderman, the coalition filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is the first step to launching their lawsuit, according to Schneiderman’s office.
“An open internet—and the free exchange of ideas it allows—is critical to our democratic process,” Schneiderman said in a press release. “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.”
In the petition, Schneiderman and his allies argue that the FCC’s decision can be deemed “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion,” under the Administrative Procedures Act and therefore violates federal law. According to the petition, part of that argument includes the fact that the public comment period leading up to the decision was majorly botched. This is the first in what is expected to be a number of lawsuits challenging the FCC’s decision late last year to repeal net neutrality laws.
The petition was co-signed by the Attorneys General representing 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.
Schneiderman was one of the most vocal opponents of the FCC’s moves to roll back net neutrality protections, particularly after the comment period suffered multiple hacks and was subject to fake comments, including comments filed using stolen identities of New Yorkers. In an investigation of the comments, Schneiderman found that as many as 2 million comments were faked, and misused the identities of real Americans without their consent.
It’s likely that consumer rights groups and nonprofits will also be filing lawsuits, but having serious legal action coming from nearly half of the country’s AGs is a particularly bold move, and one that will likely be taken the most seriously.