WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Tuesday cleared the way for California to enforce its net neutrality law, a request by telecom providers violating state regulations meant to ensure equal access to Internet content.
Judge John Mendez of the US District Court for Eastern District California rejected a preliminary injunction motion brought by a group of Internet service providers that filed a lawsuit to prevent the 2018 state law from taking effect.
Net neutrality is the notion that all Internet content should be accessible to consumers and that broadband providers cannot block or degrade content, especially sites and services, that compete against their services.
California law was enacted in 2017 by the Trump-era Federal Communications Commission following the withdrawal of its federal net neutrality regulation. The Justice Department immediately sued the state for overturning its law. Broadband providers, through their business groups, requested an initial injunction to block California law while the suit wound up through the courts.
Business groups suing the state said in a joint statement that they were reviewing the court’s decision and deliberating next steps. But he argued against state laws to create a patchwork of rules for broadband providers.
“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and inhibit innovation, as has the importance of broadband for all never been more evident,” the groups said.
The court’s decision paves the way for California to enact its own law, a move that is expected to be repeated by other states in the absence of federal rule. Washington, Vermont and Oregon are among the handful of states that enacted laws following the federal rollback of the rules.
“We call for the court’s confirmation that California has the power to protect access to the Internet,” California Attorney General, Javier Becerra said in a statement. “An Internet service provider’s ability to block, slow down or speed up content based on a user’s ability to pay for the service provider. Consideration of a competitive market and open transfer of information at the core of our growing digital and connected world Shows down . “
The Biden administration is expected to support the restoration of federal net neutrality rules. A month into the new administration, the Justice Department dropped its lawsuit against California law, dropping the telecommunications industry’s request for an initial injunction as a final hurdle in the law.
Scott Weiner, California state senator who wrote the law, called the decision a victory. “Internet is at the heart of modern life. We all need to be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the Internet and how we get information. We cannot allow big corporations to make those decisions for us, ”he said.
Jessica Rosenversel, a Democrat who is the acting FCC president, vehemently opposed the agency’s decision to dissolve net neutrality rules in 2017. It has not announced plans to reinstate federal regulations. His focus has been on a mandate by Congress to increase the digital divide of broadband access to low-income Americans.
“When the FCC, over my objection, withdrew its #netneutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws,” He said in a tweet. “A court in California tonight decided that state law could be effective. This is big news for the #openinternet policy.”