California To Suspend State Net Neutrality Law Until Court Ruling

A looming showdown between individual US states and the US Federal government (namely the Federal Communication Commission – FCC), has been adverted for a year or more.

The showdown began after California (the most populous US state) officially adopted its own strict ‘net neutrality’ laws earlier this month, which would have become law on 1 January 2019.

That resulted in the US Justice Department quickly filing an injunction to stop the Californian law, after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned that “states do not regulate interstate commerce – the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

Temporary Truce

California is not alone however. At least three US states, including Washington State, have already signed a law in direct opposition to the FCC in order to stop Internet Service Providers from blocking websites or offering fast lane Internet access to companies willing to pay.

Numerous US states have opposed the Trump-controlled FCC, which controversially voted to “roll back” Obama-era net neutrality rules in December last year.

That “roll-back” prompted 22 US states to come together to ask the US Appeals Court to stop attempts by the FCC to halt US states implementing their own net neutrality rules.

But now Reuters reported that the state of California on Friday agreed not to enforce its own state net neutrality law until a final court decision on the FCC’s net neutrality roll back.

Reuters said that the move likely means the California net neutrality law will now be on hold for a year or longer.

The federal appeals court will hear oral arguments on the administration’s net neutrality roll-back on 1 February 2019.

California has agreed it would not seek to enforce its law until that court’s decision and any potential review by the US Supreme Court.

California is of course home to Silicon Valley and is where many tech giants are headquartered, most of whom have voiced their fierce opposition to the FCC roll-back.

Substantial concession?

The FCC is controlled by its Republican chairman Ajit Pai (appointed by President Trump) and it did not take long for him to boast about California’s “substantial concession.”

“California has agreed not to enforce its new Internet regulation law pending the resolution of a petition for review of the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and any subsequent proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Pai in a statement.

“I am pleased that California has agreed not to enforce its onerous Internet regulations,” he added. “This substantial concession reflects the strength of the case made by the United States earlier this month. It also demonstrates, contrary to the claims of the law’s supporters, that there is no urgent problem that these regulations are needed to address.”

“The Internet is inherently an interstate information service, as the Supreme Court has recognized, which means that only the federal government can set policy in this area,” Pai warned.

“A patchwork of state laws only introduces uncertainty in the broadband marketplace that will slow investment and deployment of infrastructure and hurt consumers,” he said. “I am confident that the FCC’s authority to preempt such state laws will be upheld, along with our proven market-based framework for protecting Internet openness, investment, and innovation nationwide.”

Vigorously defend

But California Attorney General Xavier Becerra did not see California’s law suspension in quite the same light, and pledged to “vigorously defend” California’s own net neutrality law.

Becerra was quoted by Reuters as saying that the decision was “intended to put us in the best position to preserve net neutrality for the 40 million people of our state.”

“We are fighting the Trump Administration’s attempt to repeal net neutrality in the DC Circuit Court and we will vigorously defend California’s own net neutrality law,” Becerra reportedly said.

Quiz: The past, present and future of 4G networks.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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