Washington intends to fight Net Neutrality decision in courts

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in December to roll back net neutrality rules imposed two years ago, and Washington lawmakers and its top attorney are responding.

The Open Internet Order was passed in February 2015, and it classified internet provisions as telecommunications services. Under Title II regulations, there were prohibitions on site and app blocking, speed throttling (slowing or speeding up an internet service to regulate network traffic) and creating fast lanes — where internet service providers charge web companies for priority access.

Supporters of continuing net neutrality argued companies like Comcast could begin collecting tolls to make certain websites and web services run faster, or making web access a tiered system.

Proponents argued that the regulations were never needed, and that the internet was running fine prior to 2015. They also believe that investments in infrastructure will increase with the rollback and competition between ISPs will benefit consumers.

The FCC vote was divided along Democrat and Republican lines. FCC chairman Ajit Pai lauded the decision, having voted against the Open Internet Order in 2015. In a statement following Thursday’s vote, Pai referred to the decision as “restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the Internet for most of its existence.”

“It’s difficult to match that mundane reality to the apocalyptic rhetoric that we’ve heard from Title II supporters,” a portion of the statement reads. “And as the debate has gone on, their claims have gotten more and more outlandish. So let’s be clear. Returning to the legal framework that governed the Internet from President Clinton’s pronouncement in 1996 until 2015 is not going to destroy the Internet. It is not going to end the Internet as we know it. It is not going to kill democracy. It is not going to stifle free expression online. If stating these propositions alone doesn’t demonstrate their absurdity, our Internet experience before 2015, and our experience tomorrow, once this order passes, will prove them so.”

Shortly after the Dec. 14 vote, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his office would file a lawsuit against the FCC to review its decision, claiming the Trump administration again violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

“Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country,” Ferguson’s statement reads. “We are 5-0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action. There is a strong legal argument that with this action, the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act — again.”

The day before the FCC vote, Ferguson joined Gov. Jay Inslee and several state lawmakers in stating that Washington would continue to provide consumer protections regardless of what the FCC did.

“I was proud to stand with Gov. Inslee yesterday when he announced that Washington state will step up to protect consumers in light of this disappointing federal action,” Ferguson’s statement reads. “I commend him for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work with him to that end.”

Ferguson had also joined 17 other attorneys general in issuing a letter to the FCC, asking commissioners to hold off on its vote.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who joined 68 mayors across the country last week in signing a letter opposing the Restoring Internet Freedom Draft Order, announced Thursday afternoon that she is directing city departments to work with the Seattle City Council to draft an ordinance that provides legal protections that preserve open and equitable internet access for residents “consistent with their experience under Obama-era regulations,” according to a news release.

“The FCC’s irresponsible and reckless decision weakens our democracy. Our City and state are committed to fighting this decision and will be taking action to protect fair and open access to the internet,” Durkan said in her news release. “In the weeks and months to come, I will be working with the City Attorney, Seattle IT, the Council, and others to examine steps our City can take to maximize the principals of net neutrality and protect online freedoms. It is critical our City is working to ensure the freedom of the internet is not controlled by service providers, especially as we bring 5G service online.”