Tech Companies Sue FCC For 'Demolishing' Net Neutrality

Six tech companies including online marketplace Etsy, fund-raising platform Kickstarter and blogging platform Automattic on Monday joined the growing roster of net neutrality advocates that are suing the Federal Communications Commission over its recent decision to repeal the net neutrality rules.

In a petition filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Etsy and the others contend that the FCC lacked a good reason for the repeal. The new petition against the FCC joins similar complaints filed by 23 attorneys general, advocacy group Free Press and tech companies Mozilla and Vimeo.

The move is in response to the FCC's 3-2 vote in December to revoke Obama-era net neutrality rules that prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery of content. Those rules, passed in 2015, were upheld the following year by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.



When the FCC voted to revoke the net neutrality rules, the agency also reclassified broadband as an "information" service -- a move that effectively stripped itself of authority to police activity like blocking or throttling service. The FCC said at the time that it believed a different agency -- the Federal Trade Commission -- would be able to police broadband providers.

Etsy and the other companies say in their new court papers that this decision should be vacated.

"To modify recently promulgated agency rules based on a change of policy is one thing; to demolish, another," the companies write in a petition filed Monday. "In the space of two years, the agency has pivoted from strong net neutrality protections that were affirmed by this Court in their entirety to no substantive rules at all; to washing its hands of net neutrality, the single most important communications issue of the time; to kicking the issue across the street into the court of another, generalist agency."

Chairman Ajit Pai, who backed the repeal, said the old regulations depressed investment. But consumer advocates and other net neutrality advocates argue that the rules are necessary to prevent broadband providers from censoring sites or discriminating against competitors like Netflix.

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