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Connecticut Joins Other States Challenging FCC’s Net Neutrality Ruling

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Connecticut and several other states are asking a federal appeals court to overturn a recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC rolled back net neutrality regulations -- potentially paving the way for internet service providers to selectively favor online content.

The FCC’s recent vote would end rules barring internet providers from blocking certain content or creating so-called “slow” and “fast” lanes online.

This week, Connecticut’s Attorney General George Jepsen signed onto a petition with 20 other states -- calling the FCC’s decision “arbitrary” and “capricious.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have been working on a repeal. It likely would not make it through the House or get President Donald Trump’s signature.

That’s left several state legislatures, including lawmakers in Connecticut, drafting separate bills to fight the decision. Such moves will likely prompt debate about the limits of federal broadband authority.

Jepsen said his office would defend any state laws passed.  

“The theory is that for a state law to preempted, it has to be preempted by actual action by the national authority, in this case -- the FCC,” said Jepsen.

But Jepsen said the FCC’s rollback means the agency is, essentially, “doing nothing.”

“They’re revoking the regulations that have been in place -- were going into effect --- and leaving nothing in their wake,” Jepsen said. “The argument is you can’t preempt a state law with just nothing.”  

Thomas Kadri from Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, said, for a long time, states challenging federal laws were generally more conservative.

“We’re seeing under President Trump’s administration, that the tables have turned slightly,” Kadri said. “Now a lot of states are relying on these federalism arguments -- federalism principles -- to challenge federal regulations.”

Kadri said the impact on consumers will take time to figure out. Legal challenges need to work their way through the courts and, if successful, could block the FCC’s vote. And several internet service providers have “already come out very strongly and [said], ‘Look, we don’t want to change anything about your internet service,’” Kadri said.

In a December blog post, internet provider Comcast praised the FCC’s decision, saying “this is not the end of net neutrality” and that it had no plans to block, or throttle access to, internet sites.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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