Legal Actions To Restore Net Neutrality Take Small Step Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C.—While Democrats in the United States House of Representatives continue to push for a vote that could revive now-repealed net neutrality protections, the battle over the open internet continues in the court system.

At least 23 state attorneys general as well as private advocacy groups have filed lawsuits to bring back the Obama-era rules that stop big telecommunications companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from discriminating against some content providers on the internet, and favoring others.

Under Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai, a Donald Trump appointee and former Verizon lawyer, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to ditch the 2015 rules that govern internet fairness. The rules officially expired on June 11.

But the multiple legal actions are moving forward, including a lawsuit by Mozilla, the open-source software project behind Firefox, the third-most-popular web browser software among internet users. 

This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia moved the lawsuits against the FCC decision forward at least a small step, setting deadlines for parties to the legal actions, including the FCC itself, to file briefs with the court detailing arguments supporting the revival of net neutrality rules—or in the FCC’s case, saying why net neutrality should remain history.  

That deadline is August 20, according to the tech site Any other parties who want to “intervene” in the case—that is, take part in the proceedings without being either plaintiffs or defendants in the lawsuits—have until October 18 to file paper explaining why the court should let them intervene.

The parties to the suits will have until November 16 to file replies to the August 20 briefs, with final briefs due on November 27. But no decisions in the net neutrality lawsuits are expected until sometime next year.

The loss of net neutrality rules appears likely to hit the online porn industry especially hard, with internet service providers now allowed to simply block or slow traffic to and from any sites that they wish. With at least four states already passing resolutions declaring porn a “public health hazard,” ISPs could hop to curry political favor by blocking adult sites.

Or, perhaps even more likely, they themselves could profit off of the massive amount of online data devoted to porn—as much as 37 percent by some estimates—by charging porn consumers additional fees to access the sites, or charging porn sites a premium price to maintain adequate download speeds.

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