U.S. Justice Department Sues California Over Net Neutrality Law

Andrew Cummings
October 1, 2018

Jerry Brown has signed into law the strictest set of net neutrality protections ever seen in the US.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state-wide net neutrality bill into law on Sunday, only to be slapped with a Department of Justice lawsuit hours later.

The FCC has said instead that other agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, should take a more active role in protecting the public from violations of net neutrality.

The United States Telecom Association said in a statement it supports strong net neutrality protections but thinks the matter should be left to the federal government.

But the Justice Department said the law runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government the power to set rules for interstate commerce - and that, they said, means the internet.

Supporters of the new law cheered it as a win for internet freedom. -Evan Greer, Fight for the FutureEvan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, was among those championing the tireless work of activists, organizers, and regular citizens who pushed the bill in California and have been working to restore net neutrality protections nationwide since FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lobbyist and appointed by President Donald Trump, led the effort to destroy them on behalf of the telecom industry previous year. "The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits".

The Department of Justice says that the new California law goes against the federal governments desire to deregulate the internet by creating anti-consumer requirements.

That action led to a backlash in a number of states, which have sought to pass their own rules of the road for internet service.

A number of other U.S. states would also like to implement their own rules to protect net neutrality, although the FCC's decision clearly forbids such moves.

Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, smile after their net neutrality bill was approved by the Senate, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif.

"Courts have consistently held that when the federal government lacks authority to regulate, it can not preempt states from regulating", said Andrew Schwartzman, a lecturer in public interest law at Georgetown University. Broadband companies and then-FCC board member Ajit Pai - who was appointed as chairman of the commission in 2017 - opposed net neutrality in 2015 arguing that it prevented the opportunity for investment in broadband companies and stifled innovation.

Barbara van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford University and an advocate for tougher net neutrality policies, agreed. He doubled down on calling California's net neutrality regulation illegal, adding that "it also hurts consumers". As a result, the Trump administration wants to make an example of California.

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