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Mass. AG says she’ll join suit against FCC action rolling back Net neutrality rules

Diane Tepfer held a sign with an image of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai as the "Grinch who Stole the Internet" as she protested near the agency offices in Washington on Thursday.
Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Diane Tepfer held a sign with an image of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai as the "Grinch who Stole the Internet" as she protested near the agency offices in Washington on Thursday.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said Thursday she will join New York’s attorney general in a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commissions over its decision to roll back Net neutrality rules.

Healey said the FCC decision means “Americans will pay more for the Internet and will have fewer options.”

“The agency has completely failed to justify this decision and we will be suing to stand up for the free exchange of ideas and to keep the American people in control of internet access,” she said in a statement after the FCC’s 3-2 vote.

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Healey was among 18 attorneys general who called Wednesday in a letter for the FCC to postpone the vote, citing reports that 2 million comments submitted online in support of the change were fake.

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The reports “should raise alarm bells for every American,” the attorneys general wrote in their letter. “This is akin to identity theft on a massive scale — and theft of someone’s voice in a democracy is particularly concerning.”

Net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers should treat all traffic that flows through their networks equally, without slowing down, or even blocking, certain traffic from content providers. It’s essentially how the Internet has always worked — a system that was reinforced under the Obama administration in 2015.

Critics have expressed a number of concerns about the elimination of the 2015 rules, including that Internet service providers could ask content providers to pay more for faster service, thus discouraging innovation — squashing the next Netflix, for example. They’re also concerned that Internet service providers could censor disfavored websites, and that they could ultimately make it more expensive for everyday people to get service.

The Republican-controlled FCC says easing regulations could encourage Internet service providers to invest more in their systems, bringing people better service.

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The attorneys general could be joined by others in filing lawsuits.

In a tweet on Thursday, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey indicated he would support a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision. He said he, along with California US Representative Anna G. Eshoo, were preparing to file an amicus brief for such a challenge.

In addition to taking legal action, some critics hope to make the FCC’s vote an issue in the 2018 midterm elections. There is also some hope that Congress might overturn the FCC decision.

Massachusetts US Representative Joe Kennedy III sissued a statement, saying, “Locking the Internet with keys owned by major corporations will restrict economic equity and crush free speech. If President Trump and [FCC] Chairman [Ajit] Pai refuse to protect consumers from unfair and unjust limitations to an open and free Internet, Congress must respond to the public outcry and uphold net neutrality.”

Internet service providers welcomed the FCC vote. AT&T senior executive vice president Bob Quinn said in a blog post that the Internet ‘‘will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.’’ Quinn said the company won’t block websites and won’t throttle or degrade online traffic based on content, The Associated Press reported.

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FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat appointed by former president Barack Obama, lambasted the ‘‘preordained outcome’’ of the vote that she said hurts small and large businesses and ordinary people. She said the end of Net neutrality hands over the keys to the Internet to a ‘‘handful of multibillion-dollar corporations.”

Danny McDonald of Globe Staff contributed to this report. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.