WASHINGTON – The major trade group representing Facebook, Google, Netflix and dozens of other tech firms in Washington said Friday that it plans to sue the Federal Communications Commission over its recent decision to deregulate the broadband industry – drawing fresh battle lines in a years-long fight over the future of the Internet.
The Internet Association, in a statement, said it would be joining what will likely be a multi-pronged legal attack against the FCC’s rewritten rules, which the agency released Thursday night. Approved last month under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the new rules make it legal for Internet providers such as AT&T and Verizon to speed up or slow down websites at will, as well as to block them outright.
“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers,” the Internet Association said. “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 declined to comment.
Friday’s announcement foreshadows a barrage of lawsuits on net neutrality that could soon drop. But first, the FCC rules must be officially published in the Federal Register before any appeals can take place. That process could take a number of weeks, analysts say.
This isn’t the first time the FCC will have gone to court over net neutrality. In 2015, the Democratic-led commission successfully defended a legal challenge from the cable and telecom industries, who alleged that the FCC had overstepped its authority in passing the rules. While the regulations may have survived then, Pai’s effort to repeal them in December is now leading to yet another court battle.
Supporters of the rules argue that they represent a vital consumer protection, and have vowed not only to fight the FCC decision in court but also to seek solutions at the state level and in Congress.
Opponents of the rules plan to argue that the regulations discouraged Internet providers from building out their broadband networks to underserved areas, and that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate Internet providers like legacy telephone companies in the first place.