Internet provider groups sue Vermont over net neutrality law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four industry groups representing major internet providers and cable companies filed suit on Thursday seeking to block Vermont’s law barring companies that do not abide by net neutrality rules from receiving state contracts.

An AT&T logo is pictured in Pasadena, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Vermont by groups representing major providers like AT&T Inc (T.N), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and follow a suit from the four groups earlier this month challenging a much broader California law mandating providers abide by net neutrality rules.

The groups are also challenging an executive order on the issue signed by Vermont Governor Phil Scott. Other states, including New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Montana and Hawaii, have also adopted similar rules to bar state contracts from companies not complying with net neutrality protections.

Scott said he was disappointed in the suit against the state “for taking action to protect our citizens and our economy.” He said he believes Vermont residents “have a right to free and open access to information on the internet. In the absence of a national standard to protect that right, states must act.”

The Vermont lawsuit was filed by the American Cable Association; CTIA – The Wireless Association; NCTA – The Internet & Television Association; and USTelecom – The Broadband Association.

The groups said in a joint statement that “states cannot use their spending and procurement authority to bypass federal laws they do not like.”

The U.S. Justice Department in late September filed its own lawsuit to block California’s law. The Trump administration rules were a win for internet providers but opposed by companies like Facebook Inc (FB.O), Inc (AMZN.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O).

Under President Donald Trump, the Federal Communications commission voted 3-2 along party lines to reverse the 2015 net neutrality rules that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization.

It also said in repealing the Obama-era rules that it was pre-empting states from setting their own rules governing internet access.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler

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