22 attorneys general sue to block FCC’s net neutrality repeal as Senate mounts legislative effort

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
A group of 22 attorneys general filed a petition to stop the FCC's rollback of net neutrality under Commissioner Ajit Pai. (FCC)

A month after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, state attorneys, legislators and advocacy groups are asking courts to prevent the regulations from moving forward.

A group of 22 attorneys general—including New York, California and the District of Columbia—filed a petition (PDF) in the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. on Tuesday to vacate the FCC’s declaratory ruling, calling it “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”

RELATED: FCC votes to repeal net neutrality, raising implications for telehealth and remote monitoring

“The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers—allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a release. "This would be a disaster for New York consumers and businesses, and for everyone who cares about a free and open internet."

The Open Technology Institute, Free Press and Mozilla also filed similar petitions on Tuesday to protect net neutrality.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders said the Senate is just one vote shy from passing a resolution that would override the FCC’s decision. The New York Times reported that all 49 Senate Democrats had agreed to sign the resolution, along with support from one Republican: Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that net neutrality reform will help healthcare sectors like telemedicine that rely on high-speed internet by allowing broadband providers to prioritize services. However, telehealth advocates worry that the lack of restrictions will limit access to virtual care tools or leave rural facilities unable o financially support telehealth intiatives.

RELATED: FCC’s Ajit Pai says net neutrality reform will help telehealth, but experts worry a tiered system complicates connectivity

In a statement emailed to FierceHealthcare shortly after the FCC’s vote, Doctor on Demand CEO Hill Ferguson expressed concern that the net neturality repeal “could threaten that access for many Americans, especially those in areas where quality healthcare is already hard to come by."

“Telehealth doesn’t work if you don’t have that connectivity,” Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy previously told FierceHealthcare. “It's an essential element of telehealth. If you price people out, they aren’t going to be able to use it.”

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