The US state of California has passed a law that would be the strictest net neutrality protections in the country, and could serve as a blueprint for other states. Under the law, internet service providers will not be allowed to block or slow specific types of content or applications, or charge apps or companies fees for faster access to customers.
California is once again proudly leading the nation to guarantee that the free and open Internet is here to stay. It’s time for Congress to do the same and put an end to the Trump Admin‘s assault on #NetNeutrality! https://t.co/7h3C2pAqxr
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) October 1, 2018
However, the Department of Justice says the California law is illegal and that the state is “attempting to subvert 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. The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order.”
Justice Department Files Net Neutrality Lawsuit Against the State of California https://t.co/ZxifpOUfbi
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) October 1, 2018
The FCC too is fighting California over a pre-exemption clause included in its 2017 order repealing net neutrality protections. The FCC holds that it can preempt state-level laws because broadband service crosses state lines. Legal experts are split over whether or not the FCC can challenge a state net neutrality law, but Wiener believes the clause is unenforceable.
“We don’t think the FCC has the power to preempt state action,” said Wiener. “We are prepared to defend this law. We believe that California has the power to protect the internet and to protect our residents and businesses.”
Barbara van Schewick, a professor at Stanford Law School, says the California bill is on solid legal ground and that California is within its legal rights.
“An agency that has no power to regulate has no power to preempt the states, according to case law. When the FCC repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, it said it had no power to regulate broadband internet access providers. That means the FCC cannot prevent the states from adopting net neutrality protections because the FCC’s repeal order removed its authority to adopt such protections,” said van Schewick.
Carriers will be watching the lawsuit closely. Further commentary on CNN