The clock is ticking for those who want to save net neutrality in the U.S., after the Federal Communications Commission’s contentious decision to scrap the rule was officially published in the Federal Register on Thursday, Feb. 22.
Part of the new rule will go into effect on April 23, 60 days after its publication in the register, and the rest—including the official scrapping of net neutrality—will go into effect 50 days after the Office of Management and Budget completes a review of the change. That is, unless someone manages to push back successfully.
Net neutrality is a principle that says no Internet traffic should get special treatment or be blocked or degraded on the basis of a company’s willingness to pay for its smooth transmission. It was mandated in an Obama-era FCC move that the agency, now under Republican control, voted to rescind in mid-December.
On Thursday, as the rule was published in the Federal Register, a coalition of 23 state attorneys general launched a lawsuit against the FCC decision, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the rollback.
“An open internet, and the free exchange of ideas it allows, is critical to our democratic process,” said Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general who is leading the charge. “Repealing net neutrality will allow internet service providers to put corporate profits over consumers by controlling what we see, do, and say online. Consumers and businesses in New York and across the country have the right to a free and open internet, and our coalition of attorneys general won’t stop fighting to protect that right.”
Other states whose chief prosecutors are participating in the lawsuit include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Free Press and Mozilla are also going to court against the rule change.
Meanwhile, Democratic senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal will next week launch a bid to get the public behind them in their attempt to secure a vote in Congress on the matter.
Now that the FCC’s rule-change has been published, Congress can pass a resolution to block it within the ensuing 60 days. It’s unlikely to come to a vote, due to the opposition of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House speaker Paul Ryan, but Markey has 50 senators on his side and Democratic representative Mike Doyle, who’s also on board, has 143 co-sponsors in the House.
Many states, most recently Vermont and Oregon, have also introduced legislation to uphold the net neutrality principle.
Most Americans disagree with the FCC’s decision, a poll in December found.
This article was updated to reflect the fact that the Office of Management and Budget still needs to review the change before it goes into effect.