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23 state AGs refile lawsuit challenging net neutrality repeal

The lawsuit by a coalition of attorneys general comes as the FCC files notice of its repeal to the Federal Register.

James Martin/CNET

A coalition of 23 state attorneys general refiled a lawsuit Thursday challenging the Federal Communications Commission's rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations as the commission published its final notice of the repeal in the Federal Register.

The coalition, lead by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, filed a lawsuit in January to block the repeal of the rules but agreed to withdraw it Friday and wait for the FCC's publication. Publishing the notice to the Federal Register begins a 60-day clock until the rules are removed and allows for the filing of legal challenges.

"Today, the FCC made official its illegal rollback of net neutrality -- and, as promised, our coalition of attorneys general is filing suit," Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the lawsuit (PDF).

"Consumers and businesses in New York and across the country have the right to a free and open internet, and our coalition of attorneys general won't stop fighting to protect that right," he said.

The lawsuit comes about two months after the agency voted 3-2 along party lines to dismantle rules passed in 2015 to ensure that all traffic on the internet is treated equally and to prevent broadband and wireless providers from blocking or slowing online content. The agency also voted to eliminate the legal foundation that gives the FCC oversight of internet service providers.

Even though many people agreed with the basic premise of net neutrality, the FCC's rules became a lightning rod for controversy because they placed broadband providers under the same strict regulations that govern telephone networks.

The lawsuit isn't the only action states are taking to preserve net neutrality. Earlier this month, New Jersey enacted its own net neutrality regulations, joining Montana and New York in making an independent net neutrality policy.

An FCC spokesman responded to news of the lawsuit by saying the agency is confident the net neutrality repeal, formerly called the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, will be upheld in court. 

"In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the FCC classification of broadband as a Title I information service, and we have every reason to believe that the courts will uphold the FCC's decision to return to that light-touch regulatory framework," the spokesman said in a statement.

Joining Schneiderman in the coalition are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

First published Feb. 22 at 4:44 p.m. PT.
Update on Feb. 23 at 10:40 a.m. PT: Adds comment from the FCC.

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