The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Silicon Valley’s biggest lobbying group says it will help sue the FCC over net neutrality

(Elise Amendola/AP)

The major trade group representing Facebook, Google, Netflix and dozens of other tech firms in Washington said Friday that it plans to join a multi-pronged legal attack against the Federal Communications Commission over its decision to deregulate the broadband industry — drawing fresh battle lines in a years-long fight over the future of the Internet.

Approved last month under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the new rules make it legal for Internet providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to speed up or slow down websites at will, as well as to block them outright. The Internet Association said it would be participating in a future suit against the revised rules, which the agency released Thursday night.

Friday's announcement foreshadows a barrage of lawsuits on net neutrality that could soon drop. But first, the FCC rules must be officially published in the Federal Register before any appeals can take place. That could take a number of weeks, analysts say.

“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers,” the Internet Association said in a statement. “This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open Internet. IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution.”

The FCC declined to comment.

This isn't the first time the FCC will have gone to court over net neutrality. In 2015, the Democratic-led commission successfully defended a legal challenge from the cable and telecom industries, who asserted that the FCC had overstepped its authority in passing the rules.

Supporters of the rules argue that they represent a vital consumer protection and have vowed not only to fight the FCC decision in court but also to seek solutions at the state level and in Congress.

Opponents of the rules plan to argue that the regulations discouraged Internet providers from building out their broadband networks to underserved areas, and that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate Internet providers like legacy telephone companies in the first place.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said that the Internet Association plans to sue the FCC. It does not plan to sue independently but rather join the legal battles that will challenge the FCC's new net neutrality rules. This version has been updated to reflect that.