Broadband Industry Urges Judge To Invalidate Vermont Net Neutrality Law

A coalition of cable and wireless organizations are asking a judge to invalidate Vermont's new net neutrality law on the grounds that the measure goes against federal policy.

Vermont lawmakers “purposefully acted to undermine federal law,” the American Cable Association, CTIA -- The Wireless Association, NCTA -- The Internet & Television Association, New England Cable & Telecommunications Association and USTelecom -- The Broadband Association write in court papers filed Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss in Vermont.

“This case is about Vermont’s efforts to nullify federal law by imposing state-specific rules on an interstate communications service that the FCC -- under both Democratic and Republican administrations -- has held must be subject to a uniform federal regulatory approach, rather than a patchwork of state regulations,” the broadband organizations add.

The Vermont law, passed last year, prohibits broadband providers that contract with agencies from blocking or throttling content, applications and services, and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery. The measure also prohibits providers from "unreasonably" interfering with the ability of customers and web companies to reach each other online.

Vermont lawmakers passed the measure several months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The FCC's repeal also contains provisions overriding state net neutrality regulations. But the repeal is being challenged in court, and it's not yet known whether any portion of the repeal will be upheld -- including the attempt to prevent states from passing their own laws.

Last October, the broadband providers sued to nullify Vermont's law. They claimed both that the FCC blocked states from passing their own laws and that state broadband laws are unconstitutional because Internet access is an interstate service.

The providers argue in their new papers that they're entitled to summary judgment on the claim that the FCC effectively prohibited states from creating net neutrality laws.

Other states -- including California, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington -- have also moved forward with measures aimed at ensuring net neutrality on a statewide level. 

A coalition of broadband industry groups have sued to invalidate the California law. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra agreed to hold off enforcing that law until a federal appellate court rules on a challenge to the FCC's repeal of the Obama-era rules.

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