Four lobbying groups with ties to the biggest cable and telecom providers in the country have filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont over its measures to preserve net neutrality. The dispute is another front in the growing war between state governments and ISPs in the wake of the FCC’s repeal of Title II protections.
The lawsuit was filed with the Vermont U.S. District court on Thursday by industry groups that represent telecoms like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and many others. It argues that Vermont doesn’t have the authority to enforce a bill from the state legislature and an executive order that were both signed by Governor Phil Scott earlier this year.
The FCC decided last year to kill the rules that required ISPs to treat internet traffic equally and prohibited practices like targeted throttling. Vermont decided to implement legislation that would prevent the issuance of state contracts to any telecom that did not live up to the previous net neutrality standards. Other states like New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Montana, and Hawaii have passed similar legislation.
In today’s lawsuit, the four industry groups argued that Vermont’s authority is superseded by the FCC. It reads in part:
As the FCC has repeatedly recognized, Internet traffic flows freely between states, making it difficult or impossible for a provider to distinguish traffic moving within Vermont from traffic that crosses state borders. Both the Supremacy Clause and the dormant Cmmerce Clause protect broadband Internet service providers (“ISPs”) from a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that are impossible for them to comply with as a practical matter. The Court should declare that the Executive Order and S. 289 are preempted and unconstitutional, and should permanently enjoin the Defendants from enforcing or giving effect to them.
Ever since the former Verizon attorney and current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai decided to kill net neutrality, he’s argued that states do not have the right to make their own rules on this issue and legal battles were inevitable. Earlier this month, the same industry groups also filed a lawsuit against California regarding its much stronger net neutrality law. The Department of Justice is also suing California over its legislation in a separate case.
We’ll likely see more net neutrality cases on the state level, soon. And while the House of Representatives twiddles its thumbs over net neutrality legislation that the Senate passed in May, state protections are the best option we have.