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The Fate of Net Neutrality Hinges on the House

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WASHINGTON — On Sunday night, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a strong pro-Net Neutrality law. Immediately after the governor signed the new law, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in federal court in California to prevent it from taking effect.

The new law adopts open-internet rules similar to those the FCC repealed in December 2017, with provisions prohibiting broadband ISPs from blocking, degrading or charging for prioritization of internet traffic. The California law also establishes a framework for assessing other unreasonable ISP practices like charging websites and apps access and interconnection fees merely to deliver data for which ISPs’ broadband customers already pay.

The California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 cleared both chambers of the state legislature earlier in September thanks to the leadership of the bill’s main sponsor, State Sen. Scott Wiener.

The Justice Department lawsuit is based on preemption provisions in the FCC’s December 2017 Net Neutrality and Title II repeal. Free Press and others have challenged that FCC order in appellate court, with states’ attorneys general taking the lead in explaining how unjustified the FCC’s preemption attempt is.

Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Governor Brown’s signature on the California Net Neutrality bill is a significant milestone in the effort to restore essential communications rights for everyone in America. The right to speak online without interference from your broadband provider is essential for starting a new business, finding educational opportunities, organizing against injustice, and creating and distributing news, music, art and other information.

“The Trump administration’s decision to sue the state of California just for stepping in to fill the void created when Ajit Pai wrongly took away these congressionally granted rights is unfortunate and hypocritical in the extreme. While Beltway Republicans often extol the virtues of local self-determination, Ajit Pai’s FCC has moved to strip away control from cities and states time and again — whether those cities and states are introducing their own Net Neutrality bills, building their own broadband networks or even regulating corporate ISPS’ use of government land.

“As the preemption suit moves forward, cable and phone lobbyists will wail about how they can’t comply with a patchwork of different state laws prohibiting broadband providers from unreasonably discriminating against internet users’ basic rights. This complaint is completely absurd given that the same lawyers and lobbyists from AT&T and Comcast were the chief culprits in destroying the blanket federal protections on the books.

“The enactment of California’s new law is a testament to the popular appeal of strong open-internet protections, but beyond that it’s a testament to the power of organizing to overcome lobbying cash. Groups like the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, and dozens more campaigned tirelessly in Sacramento for passage of this measure.”

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