Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and New York Attorney General Letitia James responded with frustration to a federal appeals court decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules.
The five-member FCC enacted the rules in April 2015 following a 3-2 vote along party lines, but reversed the decision in December 2017 in a 3-2 vote. The lawsuit against the FCC was brought by a coalition of technology companies, states and advocacy groups. While a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit backed the FCC’s rollback, it also questioned the agency’s insistence that it had the authority to override state net neutrality laws.
Defenders of the 2015 rules said the net neutrality policy prevented internet service providers from deliberately speeding up, slowing down or blocking access to content, applications or websites. Net neutrality supporters argue that with the FCC reversal, ISPs are able to punish their competitors by slowing down their content and demanding extra fees from companies that want faster internet service, thus forcing those who cannot pay to put up with slower internet speeds.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai took to Twitter to welcome the appeals court’s verdict.
“Today’s D.C. Circuit decision is a big victory for consumers!” he tweeted. “The court affirmed the FCC’s decision to repeal 1930s utility-style regulation of the Internet. A free and open Internet is what we have today. A free and open Internet is what we’ll continue to have going forward.”
However, Tong also took to Twitter with much less joy.
“Connecticut businesses and families rely on equal access to the internet free from corporate strangleholds,” he tweeted. “Open access must be defended. Today’s D.C. Circuit Court opinion was a bit of a mixed bag, but when it came to the question of state authority, the decision was clear. If FCC will not protect consumers, today’s opinion paves the way for states to act.”
James’ office issued a terse statement on the ruling.
“We stand committed to protecting our residents by treating all internet traffic equally, defending access, innovation, and competition,” the statement said. “It’s unfortunate that the court has sanctioned the federal government’s abandonment of those principles.”
The court’s decision could be appealed to the full Appeals Court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.