US Government Sues California After Net Neutrality Adoption

California has officially begun to restore open internet protections otherwise known as ‘net neutrality’, but the legislation has triggered an immediate response from the US government.

The US Justice Department late on Sunday filed an injunction after the Californian governor signed strict “net neutrality” laws for the most populous state in the United States with a population of 39 million people.

Numerous US states have opposed the Trump-controlled Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which controversially voted to “roll back” Obama-era net neutrality rules.

US injunction

That roll-back prompted 22 US states last month 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.

And 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.

And now California has joined their ranks after Californian lawmakers sent the net neutrality rule earlier this month to the governor’s desk for final approval.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quoted by Reuters as saying on Sunday in a statement 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.”

By signing California’s net neutrality law, the governor aims to have the law in place in California by 1 January 2019.

But the Justice Department has reacted quickly and on late Sunday in a court filing sought a preliminary injunction to block it from taking effect.

It reportedly warned that internet companies “cannot realistically comply with one set of standards in this area for California and another for the rest of the nation – especially when internet communications frequently cross multiple jurisdictions.”

The government also reportedly said that California sought to “second-guess” the federal government and warned “the effect of this state legislation would be to nullify federal law across the country.”

Californian resistance

The fact that California has signed this into law is highly significant, considering the economic and tech importance of that US state.

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.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra reportedly said on Sunday that the Trump Administration was ignoring “millions of Americans who voiced strong support for net neutrality rules” while California, which is “home to countless start-ups, tech giants and nearly 40 million consumers – will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load.”

The FCC is controlled by its Republican chairman Ajit Pai (appointed by President Trump) and he slammed the Californian decision.

Reuters quoted Pai as saying in a statement on Sunday that “not only is California’s internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers. The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits.”

The US Senate voted in May to reinstate the net neutrality rules.

But that victory was a completely hollow one, as despite the vote, it is highly unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

And if by some small miracle the legislation were to pass the House, President Donald Trump would likely veto it.

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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