A broadband lobbying group is vowing to fight efforts by state and city officials to restore net neutrality rules on the local level.
"Nothing could be more counter to the collective cause than everyone -- no matter how well meaning -- writing their own set of rules for how the global internet should operate in their neck of the woods," Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of US Telecom, wrote Monday in a blog post.
He adds that the organization will "aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure" for broadband.
Spalter's statement comes as momentum for net neutrality rules continues to grow at the local level. This year, governors in five states -- New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii and Vermont -- have signed executive orders requiring state agencies to contract only with broadband providers that promise to follow net neutrality principles. Mayors in 25 cities have also pledged that they will attempt to procure broadband service from companies that don't block or throttle traffic, and don't charge companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.
The state of Washington recently enacted a new law that requires broadband providers to follow net neutrality rules, and lawmakers in around two dozen other states have introduced similar legislation.
Three months ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to dismantle Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited broadband carriers from blocking or throttling online traffic and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery. The FCC also voted to block state governments from passing their own versions of net neutrality rules, but some legal experts have cast doubt on whether the attempt will hold up in court.
Consumer groups and other net neutrality advocates opposed the FCC's move, arguing that net neutrality rules are needed to prevent carriers from engaging in censorship and from discriminating against competitors and small companies that can't afford high fees for fast-lane service.
For his part, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the former rules were heavy-handed and depressed investment.
The FCC's repeal is currently being challenged in court 23 attorneys general, tech companies like Mozilla, the lobbying group Internet Association and consumer advocacy organizations. Broadband providers and lobbying groups, including USTelecom, are intervening to defend the FCC's de-regulatory move.
USTelecom says in its most recent statement that broadband rules should be uniform across the country.
"If we truly believe -- as I do -- that all Americans deserve an open internet, then we should fight together at the federal level for permanent, evenhanded protections that apply across the entire internet," Spalter writes. "Protections should be no different for consumers in Minnesota or Iowa than they are in California or Florida."
Harold Feld, senior vice president at advocacy group Public Knowledge, points out that US Telecom lobbied to repeal Obama-era rules, which applied throughout the country.
"We had a national rule," Feld says. "We could have a national rule back again by supporting the CRA," he adds, referring to an effort in Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to revoke the FCC's recent move. "Instead, not only are they lobbying against that, but they have actively intervened in support of the FCC's repeal."