Democratic Attorneys General are trying to put a stop to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision to restore the free market to the internet by repealing Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The lawsuit is being led by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in the United States District Court of Appeals in Washington. AGs from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia are joining him.
The group calls Pai’s decision a “disaster” for consumers and businesses and say their lawsuit will restore a “free and open internet.” Democrats have ironically called the regulatory regime of net neutrality a protection of freedom of choice, but Pai assured consumers that repealing the regulations will unleash a free market of competition and lower prices that were seen in the early days of the internet when Bill Clinton was president.
Long before net neutrality, Pai said the internet was only beholden to a “vibrant and competitive free market” that jump started the tech giants we know of today as Google, Amazon, and many others. Moreover, the FCC order included a provision stating that it has the “authority to preempt any state or local” regulations that are “inconsistent” with their “deregulatory approach” to net neutrality policy.
Some Democratic state senators have attempted to introduce bills that would maintain net neutrality regulations for their states, and the governors of Montana and New York have signed executive orders to enforce net neutrality as well. The California Senate has so far been successful in getting a bill passed and sent to the State Assembly, where Democrats have a 53-25 majority over Republicans. Democrats in the US Senate also tried to block Pai's order but they are one vote shy of passing their Senate resolution and it is doubtful the measure would pass the House or be signed by President Trump.
According to Reason, the FCC issued another order recently that declares their “federal policy of deregulation is entitled to the same preemptive effect as a federal policy of regulation.” Tom Stubble, an attorney and analyst at the R Street Institute told Reason, “Any state laws that conflict with this deregulatory approach, this federal approach, are unlawful.”
Still, many speculate that states will try to do an end-around on the order to impose regulations on specific things such as restrictions on access to utility poles and public rights of way. Stubble said AT&T v. Portland (2000) set a precedent that cities could not unilaterally impose regulations not adopted by the FCC. States are, however, allowed to use their “buying power” to force government-contracted ISPs to “adopt net neutrality practices.”