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Virginia AG to sue FCC over ‘net neutrality’

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wading into another fierce ideological battle, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II has announced plans to sue regarding new federal regulation of the Internet and has urged other states to jump on board his fight against "net neutrality."

Calling the regulations the "most egregious of all violations of federal law," Mr. Cuccinelli told The Washington Times on Thursday that he will begin in July or August to gather support from other attorneys general and private partners for a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission.

"They have no respect for the courts, no respect for the states, no respect for the Constitution, no respect for federal law," Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, said during an appearance on Capitol Hill at a lunch meeting of the National Italian-American Foundation.

Mr. Cuccinelli has engaged the federal government in legal battles related to other hot-button political issues, including health care and climate change. The net neutrality issue has become a cause celebre for Republicans who fear the Obama administration is attempting to control the Internet.

The regulations were approved Dec. 21 by the five-member board of the FCC over the objections of its two Republican members and are expected to go into effect this summer.

They are designed to prevent broadband providers — companies such as AT&T and Verizon, which control the infrastructure of the Internet — from interfering with how companies such as Google, Netflix or a small startup use the lines. The goal is to keep cyberspace free from interference and guarantee that consumers can reach any website they want at the prices and speeds they are used to.

The regulations have been challenged on several fronts. Verizon and MetroPCS filed a lawsuit this year contesting the agency's authority to enforce net-neutrality rules. They filed suit in the same Washington, D.C., federal appeals court that issued a ruling curbing FCC authority last year.

On a largely party-line vote in April, the House voted 240-179 to repeal the FCC regulations, but the agency has the support of the Democrat-controlled Senate and of President Obama, who appointed FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Democrats argue that the Internet needs oversight so that entrepreneurial, startup ventures such as Facebook and eBay can be protected from the telecommunications giants.

Republicans see the FCC action as a federal power grab and have argued that the unregulated Internet has flourished without government oversight. They further contend that the FCC is usurping congressional authority with the new "rules of the road."

That is a concern near and dear to Mr. Cuccinelli, who has built his record as attorney general on challenges to federal authority.

"In the face of a court order where the FCC was told 'you may not regulate the Internet,' they said, 'Well, we're going to do that anyway,' " he said. "That is just extraordinary to me."

A lawsuit challenging net neutrality would be the latest in a string of lawsuits filed by Mr. Cuccinelli, whose 18 months in office have been marked by efforts to halt regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency, overturn a federal mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance and require the University of Virginia to turn over controversial climate-change research documents.

Mr. Cuccinelli said that with a record like that, few doubt it anymore when he threatens to sue.

"Our credibility isn't a problem anymore," he said.

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