A trade group representing more than 40 of the country’s biggest tech companies announced on Friday plans to intervene in a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over its 2017 order dismantling net neutrality protections for American consumers.
The announcement by the Internet Association (IA) came less than a day after the FCC published the full text of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO) on its website.
Michael Beckerman, CEO of the IA, which represents Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, among other top tech firms, criticized the FCC for defying “the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans.” The new rules, he said, fail “to preserve a free and open internet.”
Added Beckerman: “IA intends to act as an intervenor in a judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution.”
As an intervener, the IA would be a third-party to the lawsuit, asserting its right to weigh in on the case in order to protect its members’ interests, which would clearly be impeded by disposition of the case.
The legal battle will take place months from now in a court yet to be determined. The number of litigants is also currently unknown—interested parties have another 50 days or so to file if they wish to join the suit. Among those who’ve declared their intent to file are nonprofit Public Knowledge; the open-internet advocacy group Free Press, and e-commerce giant Etsy.
“We’ll be going to court soon to challenge the FCC and ramping up pressure on Congress to throw the rules out altogether,” Free Press President Craig Aaron told Gizmodo. “[FCC Chairman] Ajit Pai has awakened the public, now Net Neutrality is a kitchen-table issue, and the outcry is only going to get louder.”
It’s worth noting, the IA’s call for a “legislative solution” runs counter to the plans of many activists who are focused instead on merely overturning the RIFO in Congress using the Congressional Review Act. (The prospect of a law being passed that truly protects net neutrality is a longshot within unified Republican government.)
For instance, legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, purports to enshrine net neutrality protections into law but actually opens up the door to paid prioritization (read: “fast lanes”) for companies that pay to have their services delivered at greater speeds, which many experts claim is an innovation-killer, particularly for new startups.
The IA previously applauded Blackburn for “moving this conversation forward,” while adding that her bill “does not meet the criteria for basic net neutrality protections.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Correction: In a previous headline for this article the companies represented by the Internet Association were labeled “tech giants.” That’s true of many, but not all, and we regret the error. In fact, it is significant that not every company IA represents in the fight against the FCC is as large as Google and Facebook. (A complete list is here.)
Update, 7pm: One of the member companies, Etsy, is filing a lawsuit, too. Althea Erickson, head of advocacy and impact at Etsy, sent Gizmodo the following statement:
“The FCC’s decision to overturn net neutrality rules was deeply disappointing for those of us who have fought so hard for the strong protections that enable millions of microbusinesses to start and grow online. Under the FCC’s new proposal, millions of small business, like Etsy’s 1.9 million sellers, could find themselves in the internet slow lane or blocked altogether.
“Etsy is continuing to fight for a free and open Internet; that’s why we intend to challenge Chairman Pai’s order in the courts.
“We believe it’s crucial for decision makers to hear directly from our sellers - the millions of creative entrepreneurs impacted by this decision - to really understand what’s at stake in this debate. Ultimately, we believe the needs and concerns of millions of microbusinesses must trump those of a few giant cable companies.”