NC attorney general files to reinstate Obama-era regulations on internet companies

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein FILE

Raleigh — N.C. Attorney General John Stein filed a brief asking a U.S. appeals court to reinstate the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality rules. Stein is one of 22 state attorneys general, joined by the District of Columbia, to file briefs late on Monday.

The states, led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, filed a lawsuit in Jan. after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in Dec. along party lines to reverse rules that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization.

Several internet companies filed a separate legal challenge on Monday to overturn the FCC ruling, including Mozilla Corp., Vimeo Inc., Etsy Inc. and numerous media and technology advocacy groups.

The FCC handed sweeping new powers to internet providers to recast how Americans use the internet as long as they disclose any changes. The new rules took effect in early June but major providers have made no changes in internet access.

The states argue the FCC reversal will harm consumers and said the FCC failed to offer a “meaningful defense of its decision to uncritically accept industry promises that are untethered to any enforcement mechanism.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has repeatedly said he believes the rules will be upheld and will encourage additional investment by providers. A spokesman for Pai did not immediately comment late Monday.

The revised rules were a win for internet service providers, like Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., whose practices faced significant government oversight and FCC investigations under the 2015 order. But the rules were opposed by internet firms like Facebook Inc., Inc. and Alphabet Inc.

The U.S. Senate voted in May to keep the Obama-era internet rules, but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives or the White House.