Internet giants Amazon, Facebook, and Google plan to throw their collective weight behind efforts to save net neutrality.
The Internet Association, the industry’s primary lobbying organization, announced Friday that it plans to join lawsuits aimed at halting the Federal Communications Commission’s December action to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. Those rules banned internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or otherwise discriminating against legal content online. The association represents dozens of smaller companies in addition to titans such as Google and Facebook.
Net neutrality supporters argue that agency’s plan is illegal under federal laws that prohibit “arbitrary and capricious” changes in regulations, and that the agency didn’t gather sufficient public input on its proposal to overturn its old rules.
“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers,” Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement, referring to FCC Chair Ajit Pai. “This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet.”
The move is significant because Facebook, Google, and other internet giants faced criticism last year for not doing enough while the FCC was considering repealing net neutrality. Most of the biggest companies participated in a “Day of Action” in July to promote awareness of the issue, but last month The New York Times pointed out that these efforts were relatively small compared to some of the industry’s past actions. For example, in 2006 Google co-founder Sergey Brin traveled to Washington, DC to make the case for net neutrality. By comparison, the internet giants were quiet last year, apart from filing comments with the FCC in support of the Obama-era rules, and placing a few notifications on their websites during the Day of Action. Apple is conspicuously missing from the group, but broke a long silence on the topic of net neutrality last year when it filed its own FCC comment in support of net neutrality.
The Internet Association does not plan to file a lawsuit itself, but will rather join legal action taken by others. The association didn’t specify a lawsuit it plans to join.
Several government officials and advocacy groups have said they plan legal action, but all have to wait until the repeal order is published in the Federal Register. The FCC Thursday published the final text of its order on its website. New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman promised to file suit, which attorneys general in several other states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, promised to join the suit. Internet advocacy groups like Free Press were also quick to promise legal action.
Legal experts told WIRED last month that net neutrality advocates have a case, but it’s too early to tell how the courts will rule on the subject.
Beckerman also said the association and its member companies will push Congress to pass strong net neutrality protections.
The Internet Association advocated strong net neutrality protections in 2014, and filed a comment encouraging the agency to retain the Obama-era rules last year.