FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, file photo, demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York. The Federal Communications Commission is voting Thursday, Dec. 14 to undo Obama-era “net neutrality” rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet. The industry promises that the internet experience isn’t going to change, but the issue has struck a nerve. Protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T will be able to control what they see and do online. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Music News

Net neutrality lawsuits come marching in

It’s official: a coalition of nearly two dozen Attorneys Generals from across the United States are suing the Federal Communications Commission over its proposed changes to net neutrality.

Led by Eric Schneiderman, the ticket-bot-fighting top lawyer from New York, almost half the states in the union and the District of Columbia are calling on federal appeals court in Washington to review the FCC’s proposed rules.

They’re asking the court to determine that the FCC’s new net neutrality regs are “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion” and in violation of federal law including the Constitution, the Telecommunications Act and FCC’s own regulations. They also argue the changes are in conflict with the government’s notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements and are otherwise “contrary to law.”

The regs, as introduced last year and approved by the FCC in December, are not yet the law of the land. The FCC published the full 530-page rule on Jan. 4 prior to official listing in in the Federal Register (the US version of Canada’s Gazette) but the regulations wouldn’t take effect until April at the earliest.

That’s part of what the AGs want to prevent: In the submission filed Tuesday, they ask the appeals court to put a hold on the changes, barring the FCC from changing anything until the legal actions are completed.

But that’s not all.

On Monday, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced he has the support of all 49 Democratic senators – and one Republican senator – and was just one person short of clearing a hurdle in the race to overturn the FCC’s changes.

“With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West, where ISPs are free to offer premium services to only the wealthiest customers while average consumer are left with far inferior options,” Schumer said.

If they’re able to secure the support of one more senator, the motion would then pass to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and then on to the president’s desk. Considering FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is an appointee of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the cards are stacked against them.

Some question whether he even understands net neutrality or how his own office works, but that’s neither here nor there.

And there’s more: lawsuits also were filed Tuesday by Free Press, Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute (part of the New America Foundation) and Mozilla. The lawsuits all have the support of the Internet Association, an industry group that includes Facebook, Google, Netflix, Spotify and Lyft among its members.

The fight’s not over yet. Stay tuned.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Amber Healy has 516 posts and counting. See all posts by Amber Healy

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