Tech Companies Including Foursquare and Etsy Are Suing the FCC Over Net Neutrality

They're filing on behalf of the Coalition for Internet Openness

5G will present new challenges for net neutrality laws. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

Several major tech companies are filing suit against the Federal Communications Commission over the agency’s plans to repeal net neutrality.

Today, Foursquare, Etsy, Shutterstock, Kickstarter and others plan to file a petition with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals over the FCC’s plans to roll back an Obama-era ruling that prevents telecoms from throttling the internet for various uses. The suit is being filed on behalf of the companies that are part of the Coalition for Internet Openness, which is an organization committed to preserving the openness, speed and accessibility of the internet for all Americans.

“The millions of entrepreneurs, creators, brands and businesses that these companies represent rely on a free and open internet to inform, support and express themselves, and to bring their ideas to the world,” the companies said in a prepared statement. “Today’s petition will make sure that their voices—and the voices of everyone who looks to the internet for innovation, information and creativity—are heard in the fight to protect net neutrality.”

Last week at the Mobile World Congress mobile trade show in Barcelona, Spain, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended his decision, explaining that the reversal is needed to allow ISPs to have more freedom in building out their 5G infrastructure. Pai was scheduled to also speak at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. However, he canceled his appearance after reportedly receiving death threats.

This isn’t the first lawsuit against the FCC over its decision—a move that has been criticized by tech giants, marketers and consumer rights groups alike while praised by telecoms that are poised to benefit from the change in policy. In January, nearly two dozen state attorneys general filed a lawsuit claiming the agency broke federal law. The Coalition for Internet Openness has not yet revealed the basis for its suit against the FCC. The Internet Association—a lobbying group that represents tech giants like Facebook and Google—has also spoken out against the agency’s plans.

“We believe that everyone has the right to access information on places, spaces and people, and that business leaders and brands need to be able to interpret trends and patterns as they truly exist,” Foursquare general counsel and chief compliance officer Marc Ellenbogen said in a statement. “We work to ensure that we can all explore—digitally and in reality—with freedom and ease. We file this petition to further influence our future and be a force for good in our world.”

Etsy, which is also filing its own petition, said it’s filing “on behalf of the 1.9 million creative entrepreneurs who sell goods on our platform, and depend on strong net neutrality protections to build their businesses and compete online.”

“The courts need to hear from the people who will be harmed the most under the FCC’s unprecedented attack on net neutrality,” Althea Erickson, head of advocacy and impact at Etsy, said in a statement. “Already, over 30,000 Etsy sellers participated in the FCC’s public comment process, and tens of thousands more reached out to Congress in support of net neutrality. Now we’re bringing their stories and experiences to the courts.”

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.