Internet giants to join net neutrality legal battle

The Internet Association, a lobbying group for firms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, says it'll work with others filing suits against the FCC for repealing Obama-era internet protections.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
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The lobbying group representing Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and several other big tech companies plans to join the legal fight to protect net neutrality.

The Washington, DC-based Internet Association on Friday said it plans to "intervene" in lawsuits that are expected to be filed against the Federal Communications Commission challenging its repeal last month of the 2015 net neutrality regulations.

The Internet Association is not expected to file its own lawsuit.  Instead, it will work closely with other entities filing suit, such as the internet marketplace Etsy, which has publicly stated plans to launch a legal challenge, and consumer advocacy groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge, which have also expressed interest in filing lawsuits.

While not a named petitioner in the case, the Internet Association will likely write briefs and provide legal arguments in the case.

"IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution," Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement.

In December, the FCC decided in a 3-2 vote along party lines to dismantle the Obama-era rules, which were designed to ensure that all traffic on the internet is treated equally and to prevent broadband and wireless providers from blocking or slowing access to online content.

Supporters of net neutrality say the FCC's rules are necessary to ensure broadband companies don't abuse their power as gatekeepers of the internet. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter supported the 2015 rules, which were the strictest ever to be passed by the agency to protect internet openness. But broadband providers say the rules were too onerous and stifled investment. Broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon support the FCC's repeal of the rules.

Net neutrality supporters have vowed to continue to fight for protections, including launching lawsuits. Democrats in Congress are trying to use the Congressional Review Act to get the FCC's vote overturned. The CRA gives Congress the power to reverse a federal agency's ruling within 60 legislative days of it being made. But in order to do that, a majority in both houses of Congress must support the move, something that's unlikely in the current politically divisive environment.

While net neutrality supporters are already lining up to challenge the FCC's repeal of the rules, it could be months before lawsuits are actually filed. The final order adopted by the FCC was released on Thursday. But the FCC's order repealing the rules must be published in the Federal Register before legal challenges can begin. That could take several more weeks.   

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