State AGs Say Net Reg Rollback Threatened Public Safety

Almost two dozen states attorneys general have joined in a suit to overturn the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom network neutrality regulation rollback.

That came in a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is hearing the appeal.

States signing on to the brief were New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

Their primary beefs with the move to reclassify ISPs as Title I information services and eliminate regs against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are, as Maryland AG Brian Frosh put it, that the move was "arbitrary and capricious, putting consumers at risk of abusive practices by broadband providers and jeopardizing public safety, and that the FCC’s order preempts state and local regulation of broadband service."

The coalition of 23 AGs was led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, according to Frosh.

ISPs were ready with a response to that and other briefs from critics of the net neutrality deregulation (initial briefs were due this week).

“As we’ve said many times, our nation’s broadband providers stand with their consumers in supporting a free and open internet—without 1930’s-era regulations—and with consumer protections that are applied consistently across the entire internet ecosystem and not exclusively on ISPs," said Jonathan Spalter, president of U.S. Telecom, whose members include major telecom ISPS including AT&T and Verizon. "As this case winds its way through federal court, it is worth noting what has not happened since the FCC’s order: the internet as we know it is still thriving, growing, open and continues to spin on its axis. The predictions made by some that ISPs would engage in throttling, blocking, and anti-competitive prioritization, have not happened. When it comes to maintaining our open, innovating internet, consumers deserve smart, modern and unambiguous protections that apply consistently to all parts of the internet ecosystem—not the backwards and balkanized approach these state attorneys general would impose on America’s internet consumers. That is what we will continue to fight for in this case and ultimately in Congress.”

Some critics of the reg rollback say the ISPs have been keeping their powder dry until the court case is resolved, after which they are free to, and have the incentive to, block and throttle and paid prioritize.

Verizon drew the attention of one of the parties to the brief, the Santa Clara fire department, for a data plan that throttles speeds when data use exceeds a certain threshold, which its fire chief said threatened public safety, specifically its ability to fight the biggest wildfire in the state's history.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.