States file lawsuits to block net neutrality repeal

NEW YORK - The expected wave of litigation against the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules has begun.

A group of attorneys general for 21 states and the District of Columbia sued Tuesday to block the repeal of the rules. Joining the lawsuit are Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, and the Open Technology Institute, which is affiliated with centrist think-tank New America. Other public interest groups are expected to file suit as well, and the tech-industry lobbying group has said it will support litigation.

The rules, which the FCC voted in December to strike down, barred broadband providers such as AT&T (T), Comcast (CMCSA) and Verizon (VZ) from interfering with internet traffic and favoring their own sites and apps. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's push to undo them inspired both street and online protests in defense of the Obama-era regulations.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the suit, said Tuesday that the end of the net neutrality rules would hurt consumers and businesses. 

"The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers, allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online," he said in a statement.

FCC spokesman Brian Hart declined to comment on the litigation.

The lawsuits are part of a multi-pronged approach against the net neutrality repeal. There are efforts by Democrats to undo the repeal in Congress. State lawmakers have also introduced bills to protect net neutrality in their own states. However, the FCC's order bars state laws from contradicting the federal government's approach.

The other attorneys general participating in the lawsuit are from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia and Washington.

The parties may have to file suit again after the FCC's order is published in the Federal Register. That hasn't happened yet. The different suits may also be consolidated.