WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, a California federal district court rejected the efforts of cable and phone lobbyists to block the state’s enforcement of its landmark Net Neutrality law. The California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act passed in 2018 to fill the void left by the Trump FCC’s repeal of federal open-internet rules and policies.
Trump’s now-departed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, jettisoned the agency’s Title II framework for Net Neutrality rules in a move that disregarded the overwhelming bipartisan support for these kinds of protections. This repeal cleared the way for internet service providers to block or discriminate against websites, apps and content chosen by broadband customers. The Pai repeal also ditched the FCC’s authority to treat broadband as an essential telecommunications service, jeopardizing the agency’s ability to make broadband more affordable, ubiquitous and competitive.
The California litigation is based on internet service providers’ meritless claim that the Trump FCC’s decision preempted state laws in this field too, preventing states from stepping into the vacuum created by that federal repeal. Last fall, Free Press joined Access Now, Mozilla, New America’s Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge to file an amicus brief in defense of California’s legislation.
The litigation over California’s law had been on hold for nearly two years while the appeals process for the FCC’s decision played out in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Tuesday’s ruling denied cable- and phone-industry requests for a preliminary injunction to continue stalling enforcement of the state law.
Free Press Vice President of Policy and General Counsel Matt Wood made the following statement:
“California could soon enforce the strong Net Neutrality bill the state passed nearly two-and-a-half years ago on a bipartisan basis. California’s law restores vital nondiscrimination protections that the Trump administration tossed aside on the federal stage.
“In light of reports about the tenor of Judge Mendez’s decision denying the ISPs’ last-ditch litigation, this industry lawsuit could evaporate even if their lobbyists decide to continue this pointless challenge.
“There’s been a lot of punditry and industry propaganda about Net Neutrality rules since the FCC repeal took effect in 2018. Among the many bad-faith arguments you’ll hear is that Ajit Pai’s decision didn’t break the internet. But that’s in part precisely because California stepped up, along with other states like Washington, and passed laws that could keep ISPs in check once they were clear of lawsuits like this. Yesterday’s decision removes a huge hurdle.
“ISPs argue that the Trump FCC’s repeal of broadband protections somehow preempts states’ ability to pass these same kinds of laws, but that claim has now failed the laugh test in federal courts on both coasts. We still need the Biden FCC to reclaim its authority for nationwide open-internet rules and policies promoting affordable internet for everyone. But California’s win is significant because it offers protections to people in our most populous state and drives the national conversation forward.”