A group of 21 US state attorneys general has filed suit to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to do away with net neutrality.
The state attorneys, including those of California, New York and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia, filed a petition to challenge the action, calling it “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion”.
The petition was filed with a federal appeals court in Washington as senate Democrats said they had the backing of 50 members of the 100-person chamber for repeal, leaving them just one vote short of a majority.
Even if Democrats could win a majority in the senate, a repeal would also require winning a vote in the house of representatives, where Republicans hold a greater majority, and would still be subject to a likely veto by President Donald Trump.
Senator Ed Markey said in a statement that all 49 Democrats in the upper chamber backed the repeal.
Earlier this month, Republican senator Susan Collins said she would back the effort to overturn the FCC’s move. Democrats need 51 votes to win any proposal in the Republican-controlled senate because vice president Mike Pence can break any tie.
Trump backed the FCC action, the White House said last month. Overturning a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers.
States said the lawsuit was filed in an abundance of caution because, typically, a petition to challenge would not be filed until the rules legally take effect, which is expected later this year.
Internet advocacy group Free Press, the Open Technology Institute, and Mozilla filed similar protective petitions today.
The FCC voted in December along party lines to reverse rules introduced in 2015 that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritisation. The new rules will not take effect for at least three months, the FCC has said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the issue would be a major motivating factor for the young voters the party is courting.
A trade group representing major tech companies including Facebook, Alphabet, and Amazon said it would support legal challenges to the reversal.
The FCC vote in December marked a victory for AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications, and handed them power over what content consumers can access on the internet. It was the biggest win for FCC chairman Ajit Pai in his sweeping effort to undo many telecommunications regulations.
While the FCC order grants internet providers sweeping new powers it does require public disclosure of any blocking practices. Internet providers have vowed not to change how consumers obtain online content.
House energy and commerce committee chairman Greg Walden, a Republican, today said he planned to hold a hearing on paid prioritisation.
He has urged Democrats to work constructively on a legislative solution to net neutrality “to bring certainty and clarity going forward and ban behaviors like blocking and throttling".
He said he does not believe a vote to overturn the FCC decision would get a majority in the US house. Representative Mike Doyle, a Democrat, today said his bill to reverse the FCC decision had 80 co-sponsors.
Paid prioritisation is part of American life, Walden argued. “Where do you want to sit on the airplane? Where do you want to sit on Amtrak?” he said.