The Federal Government Challenges State Net Neutrality Laws

On September 29, Jerry Brown, the governor of California, signed a net neutrality bill into law. This tough, far-reaching bill goes directly against the repeal of federal net neutrality that took place by the Federal Communications Commission on December 14, 2017, and which went into effect on June 11, 2018.

California’s law use the Obama-era net neutrality policy as its basis but take it even further. Under these new policies, internet providers cannot throttle content. Zero-rating and paid prioritization are banned.

Soon after the announcement that Brown had signed the bill, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block it. This lawsuit claims that California is trying to do an end run around the FCC’s deregulation policy. According to the lawsuit, the new net neutrality bill is illegal. Because internet services aren’t bound by state lines, the federal government claims that it has jurisdiction to regulate them.

AT&T quickly released a statement in support of the lawsuit, claiming that the internet is a global network that cannot be regulated at the state level. Ajit Pai, the FCC’s current chairman, released his own statement claiming that California’s law disregards the benefits of things like zero-rating for customers, especially customers with lower incomes.

California isn’t the only state trying to restore net neutrality by creating its own internet policies. Because of California’s economic importance and power, the result of this lawsuit could affect what happens with the rest of the laws and policies being put into place.

Both Washington and Oregon have already passed laws to protect net neutrality, though their laws don’t provide as much protection as California’s. More states are expected to follow, so the outcome of the DOJ’s lawsuit could have far-reaching repercussions.

In addition to a lawsuit from the Department of Justice, California could face lawsuits from internet service providers. For more information, click here.

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