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Declaring Free and Open Internet 'Critical' for Democracy, 23 State AGs Call on Court to Reinstate Net Neutrality

The FCC's unpopular repeal of net neutrality protections leaves Americans exposed not only to abusive practices by ISPs but also potential safety hazards, argue states

A protester at a pro-net neutrality demonstration in Boston. Twenty-two state attorneys general and the District of Columbia have asked a court to reinstate net neutrality regulations that were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission last year. (Photo: Tim Carter/Flickr/cc)

Arguing that the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) deeply unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules is both unlawful and poses real safety hazards for Americans, 23 state attorneys general asked a federal appeals court to reinstate the regulations.

"A free and open internet is critical to New York—and to our democracy," said New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who led the filing of Monday's brief. "By repealing net neutrality, the FCC is allowing internet service providers to put their profits before consumers while controlling what we see, do, and say online."

The brief was submitted as part of the lawsuit Underwood—along with her counterparts from states including California, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi, as well as the District of Columbia—filed weeks after the FCC repealed the rules last December.

In addition to putting Americans at risk for abusive practices by internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon and Comcast who are now able to block and throttle traffic to certain websites while offering paid "fast lanes" to internet companies that can afford them, the net neutrality repeal could potentially endanger people's safety, the attorneys general argued.

"The absence of open internet rules jeopardizes the ability to reduce load in times of extreme energy grid stress," said the attorneys general. "Consequently, the order threatens the reliability of the electric grid."

The FCC's decision—made along party lines with chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai leading the attack on net neutrality—went against the wishes of 83 percent of Americans, according to polls taken at the time. Since the decision, six state governors have filed executive orders while three states have passed legislation to protect net neutrality at the state level.

In their brief, the states also argued that the FCC's order "unlawfully purports to preempt state and local regulation of broadband service."

"The rollback of net neutrality will have a devastating impact on millions of New Yorkers and Americans across the country, putting them at risk of abusive practices while undermining state and local regulation of the broadband industry," said Underwood. "We'll continue to fight to protect consumers' right to a free and open internet."

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