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Schneiderman to sue Trump administration over Internet rule

Eric Schneiderman speaks at a press conference in

Eric Schneiderman speaks at a press conference in his office on Broadway, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: Jeff Bachner

ALBANY — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday that he will sue the Trump administration for what he calls an assault on a free and open Internet that could result in consumers being charged more to use Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites.

On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission voted to end a 2015 rule under the Obama administration, halting strict regulation of the Internet that aimed to make sure large and small websites operated on an equal footing in terms of speed of use and access.

Under President Barack Obama’s rule, broadband internet service companies were required to abide by “net neutrality.” The companies were prohibited from creating a faster service to handle some apps and their own online content at higher cost, leaving slower service for those who can’t afford it.

Supporters of the FCC action, however, including communications companies Verizon and AT&T, argue that Internet service providers now are discouraged financially from improving service. An end to net neutrality could allow companies to raise capital to make Internet service faster and more efficient for all under a “light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid Internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years,” according to the Federal Communication Commission’s statement regarding the action.

Schneiderman said the FCC decision will allow Internet services providers to charge more to access Facebook, Twitter and other sites and to degrade the quality of video unless consumers pay a higher charge. He said the decision also allows Internet services providers, called ISPs, to favor certain viewpoints in content.

The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Schneiderman’s lawsuit.

“The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving Internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers,” Schneiderman said Thursday of the legal action he said will be joined by his counterparts in several other states. “Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.”

The FCC said the vote ends “heavy-handed utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service” under Obama.

“The framework adopted by the commission today will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules,” the FCC stated. “And restoring a favorable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.”

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