Justice Department Sues California Over Its Net Neutrality Law

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  • California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a net neutrality law Sunday that would go against the Trump administration’s decision to repeal net neutrality in 2017.
  • Brown’s actions were immediately met with a lawsuit from the Department of Justice.
  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said California’s law is “illegal” and “hurts customers.”

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a net neutrality law Sunday that would reinstate Obama-era open internet rules, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued the state right away to overturn the law and block its implementation.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality rules in December 2017 that prevented internet companies from controlling what people watched and saw on the internet.

Net neutrality itself, a term that has been the cause of much debate — as well as confusion — in recent months, essentially means all internet traffic should be treated equally.

Proponents of the net neutrality rules, which Brown would be in this case, argue that placing the government at the center of the internet is essential to ensuring wireless carriers like Comcast and Verizon can’t control what consumers see or watch by offering different services with varying speeds. (RELATED: The FCC Repeals Internet Regulations After Months Of Wild Protests)

California sought to reinstate those repealed rules Sunday, but was immediately met with a lawsuit by the DOJ, which barred states from setting their own rules in its initial repeal.

DOJ press release states Brown’s law “unlawfully imposes burdens on the Federal Government’s deregulatory approach to the Internet.”

“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

California’s state legislature passed this net neutrality bill in August, which sought to forbid internet service providers from blocking certain websites and intentionally slowing down sites or apps.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Sept. 12 that the law was illegal and warned that he was “going to fight to make sure” the law would be repealed again, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country,” Pai said in the September speech. “After all, broadband is an interstate service; internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area.”

California wasn’t the only state to try to put net neutrality in its own hands — in fact, several states have attempted to pass their own respective versions of net neutrality, including New York, North Carolina and Illinois, among others.

After Brown’s actions on Sunday, Pai said that “not only is California’s internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers. The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits.”

In response to the DOJ’s lawsuit, California Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, an author on the state bill, claimed in a statement that Sessions “came out of his cave” to sue the state.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Department of Justice to ensure the Internet remains ‘unfettered by Federal or State regulation,’ as federal law requires, and the domain of engineers, entrepreneurs, and technologists, not lawyers and bureaucrats,” Pai’s statement concluded.

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