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States warming up net-neutrality lawsuits

December 14, 2017 - 2:09 pm

The Latest on the FCC's vote on eliminating net-neutrality protections for the internet:

1:10 p.m.

State attorneys general are now threatening lawsuits against the federal government's repeal of "net neutrality" rules.

New York's attorney general says he'll lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the Federal Communications Commission's rollback of rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet. Democrat Eric Schneiderman has been investigating fake public comments submitted to the FCC during the net neutrality comment process.

Schneiderman says his analysis shows 2 million comments stole the identities of real Americans, including dead people and children.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said at a July FCC meeting that the raw number of comments wasn't as important as the substance of issues raised

The Washington state attorney general has likewise vowed to sue over net neutrality.

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12:50 p.m.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he plans to file yet another lawsuit against the Trump administration: this one over net neutrality.

In a news release, Ferguson said that within days he will challenge the Federal Communications Commission's vote Thursday to repeal Obama-era rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet. He says the agency failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act.

Ferguson has also sued over President Donald Trump's travel ban, religious exemptions for contraceptive coverage, and the decision to end deportation protections for those brought to the U.S. illegally as children, among other topics.

The attorney general says the FCC's action allows internet service providers to discriminate based on content and undermines a free and open internet.

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12:40 p.m.

Critics are questioning how the Federal Communications Commission considered its repeal of net-neutrality rules, asking if it abided by its legal obligation to review and consider the public's comments.

The Obama-era rules aimed to guarantee equal access to the internet, curbing the power of internet providers to control where people go and what they do online.

Sean Moulton, open government program manager for the Washington-based nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, says public comments ensure that the public can "have its voice heard and considered."

A Pew Research Center analysis of the nearly 22 million public comments on net neutrality submitted to the FCC found that the vast majority were repeats, with more than 75,000 comments submitted at the exact same second on nine different occasions — possibly indicating these were automated submissions, such as in organized bot campaigns.

The FCC received five times the number of comments it did under the Obama administration and shaved a month off its review time, completing it in four months, Moulton says.

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12:30 p.m.

AT&T and other big internet service providers are applauding the Federal Communications Commission for unraveling sweeping net-neutrality rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet.

The FCC voted 3-2 on Thursday to overturn Obama-era rules that had been designed to prevent providers such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from favoring some sites and apps over others.

AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn said in a blog post Thursday that "the internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has." Quinn says the company won't block websites and it won't throttle or degrade online traffic based on content.

The providers have argued that the overhaul will allow them to invest more money in broadband infrastructure over time, though it's not clear how their claims will be measured.

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12:15 p.m.

The Federal Communications Commission has voted on party lines to undo sweeping Obama-era "net neutrality" rules that guaranteed equal access to internet.

The agency's Democratic commissioners dissented in the 3-2 vote Thursday.

The FCC's new rules could usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet. The agency got rid of rules that barred companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from playing favorites with internet apps and sites.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn't going to change. But protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

Net-neutrality supporters plan legal challenges. Some Democrats hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

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12:10 p.m.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican who says his plan to repeal net neutrality will eliminate unnecessary regulation, called the internet the "greatest free-market innovation in history." He added that it "certainly wasn't heavy-handed government regulation" that's been responsible for the internet's "phenomenal" development. "Quite the contrary," he says.

"What is the FCC doing today?" he asked. "Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence."

Broadband providers, Pai says, will have stronger incentives to build networks, especially in underserved areas. Ending 2015 net neutrality rules, he says, will lead to a "free, more open internet."

"The sky is not falling, consumers will remain protected and the internet will continue to thrive," Pai says.

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12:00 p.m.

The FCC meeting was abruptly halted shortly during chairman Ajit Pai's remarks and before the vote on net neutrality could take place. Pai said "on the advice of security, we need to take a brief break."

Then the meetings' live feed cut out. Representatives for the FCC could not immediately be reached for comment via email and phone.

Security officials evacuated the hearing room and searched it, then allowed everyone back in.

The meeting and livestream have since resumed.

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11:15 a.m.

Michael O'Rielly, a Republican commissioner appointed by President Barack Obama, says he supports the overturning of net-neutrality rules, calling the FCC's approach a "well-reasoned and soundly justified order."

O'Rielly says he is not persuaded that "heavy handed" rules are needed to prevent "imaginary harm."

The internet, he says, "has functioned without net neutrality rules for far longer than it has without them." The decision, he says, "will not break the internet."

Addressing criticism that the FCC's process was tainted by a large number of fake comments, O'Rielly said the agency is "required to consider and respond to significant comments."

Some comments, he said, to laughter in the room, "referred to me as a potato." He clarified that these comments had also no bearing on the agency's vote.

 

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