Home & Office

Net neutrality showdown: Now Mozilla and 21 states sue FCC over internet freedom

States sue the Federal Communications Commission in a bid to block its repeal of Obama's net neutrality rules.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: Net Neutrality is gone. Welcome to the Biased Net

A coalition of 22 attorneys general have filed a lawsuit requesting that an appeals court in Washington DC overturn the Federal Communications Commission's decision to abolish Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Previously, the FCC oversaw net neutrality rules that prevented ISPs from selectively slowing down internet traffic to different sites. Despite support for net neutrality by consumers and internet firms, president Donald Trump's FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, successfully led a vote in December to repeal it.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the multi-state lawsuit, said it is illegal for the FCC to make "arbitrary and capricious" changes to policies like net neutrality.

Barack Obama's 2015 Open Internet Order reclassified broadband internet providers as Title II common carriers as opposed to Title I information service providers under the Communications Act.

Pai has contentiously argued that the Title II classification has harmed investments in high-speed broadband and, in repealing net neutrality rules, reclassified broadband ISPs Title I, offering them "light-touch" regulations on a par with internet firms, like Google.

The lawsuit by the attorneys general against the FCC and federal government asks the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to review the FCC's decision to ditch net neutrality.


The states argue that the FCC chairman Ajit Pai's decision is based on a flawed interpretation of the Telecommunications Act.

Image: CNET

"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," said Schneiderman.

The Administrative Procedure Act doesn't permit the FCC to change policies such as net neutrality, according to the lawsuit. The states argue that the FCC's decision to classify broadband internet as a Title I information service is based on a flawed interpretation of the Telecommunications Act. In 2015 the FCC, in support of an open internet, had argued in the appeals court for broadband to be classified as Title II.

Schneiderman said the FCC's decision to roll back net neutrality rules also unlawfully included pre-emption of state and local laws.

Download now: Electronic communication policy (free PDF)

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, also filed a suit on Tuesday at US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit requesting a review of the FCC's repeal.

"Mozilla seeks review of the Order on the grounds that it is arbitrary and capricious within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act ... it abdicates the FCC's statutory mandate, and it is otherwise contrary to law," the suit states.

As CNET reports, the two net neutrality lawsuits have been filed prematurely. The petitions may be rejected by appeals courts until the FCC's decision is published in the Federal Register, which hasn't happened yet.

However, early petitions have in the past been included in the judicial lottery, which determines where the case is heard, and the preferred venue for net neutrality supporters is the DC Circuit Court of appeals, which in upheld the 2015 net neutrality rules when they were challenged by AT&T and other industry groups.

Previous and related coverage

Net neutrality vote: Why all the fuss? Here's my simple fix

Yes, the end of net neutrality is here and everyone has an opinion, statement, or some scenario. The reality is we're just caught in the middle of a Goliath vs Goliath power struggle.

Welcome back, sneakernet: Why net neutrality repeal will drive us to the edge

VPNs, Wi-Fi Meshes, pods, supernodes, and intelligent distributed cloud services will become the lingua franca of the new Biased Net.

Net neutrality repeal means your internet may never be the same (CNET)

The FCC is about to pull the rug out from under Obama-era rules on net neutrality. That could be just the start of a whole new internet experience for you.

Net neutrality: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

Do internet service providers have a right to throttle certain traffic? That's the question at the heart of net neutrality, and here's everything you need to know about it.

Editorial standards