Feds Sue California to Stop Net Neutrality Law

By: - October 1, 2018 12:00 am

Lindsay Chestnut of Baltimore holds a sign as she protests near the Federal Communications Commission in Washington in 2017. The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality, which prompted a growing number of states to fight back through lawsuits and proposed legislation. Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press

The federal government is suing California to try to halt the state from enforcing the strictest net neutrality law in the country.

The U.S. Justice Department sued Sunday, shortly after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California measure into law. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the law is illegal because only the Federal Communications Commission can create rules for broadband internet providers, not states.

In a tweet, Democratic California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded by saying his state “will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load.”

The Justice Department filed its suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Under the California law, internet service providers wouldn’t be able to block or slow down web traffic from some sites or apps, or charge companies fees for faster access to customers.

Net neutrality rules approved by the FCC in 2015 required internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T to treat all content equally. Providers were prohibited from blocking, slowing down or prioritizing web traffic from some sites or apps, and giving preferential treatment to their own content — or to content from those willing to pay extra fees.

The FCC’s decision to scrap net neutrality rules in 2017 was cheered by the broadband and wireless industries and some conservative groups, but bitterly opposed by consumer groups and tech companies such as Google and Facebook.

The FCC ruling also prohibited state and local governments from adopting their own rules.

Three states — Oregon, Vermont and Washington — have passed net neutrality laws, but none were as comprehensive as California’s.

Nearly two dozen state attorneys general, all of them Democrats, have filed a lawsuit to block the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.