California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs America’s Toughest Net-Neutrality Law
USA — October 1, 2018
On Sunday California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law on Sunday to restore net neutrality protections. Almost immediately, the Trump administration moved to block the law by suing in a federal action.
According to the news from Sacramento, the new bill prohibits internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down or blocking access to legal online content, charging customers for exemptions, or capping data usage. Brown’s move was certain to force a legal showdown with ISPs and with the FCC.
States were blocked from creating their own rules when the Trump administration repealed protections set in place during the Obama administration. Now, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento to stop the bill signed by Gov. Brown. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said:
"Under the Constitution, 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."
President Trump’s Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai called the California measure "illegal," and "the most egregious example" of a determined effort to thwart FCC rules. Pai commented in a speech at the Main Heritage Policy Center, "Only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area."
Pai tipped the administration’s hand in this speech (PDF) when he said, “California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country.” One thing President Trump does not want is a more broad-based state opposition to his net neutrality policies. However, it seems obvious that Governor Brown is fighting a losing battle, especially given the fact the country's largest cable and internet providers, led by AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp., and Verizon Communications Inc., were stalwart backers of the FCC's ruling last year.
On the California governor’s side are non-profits like Fight for the Future, a Massachusetts group that lobbies for an open internet. The group applauded Brown’s move saying the California bill is, "the strongest and most comprehensive state-level net neutrality bill in the country." Evan Greer, the Fight for the Future’s deputy director, went issued a statement saying:
"Despite their army of lobbyists and millions spent lining the pockets of legislators, these companies continue to lose ground in the face of overwhelming cross-partisan opposition to their greedy attacks on our Internet freedom.”
Trump’s DOJ suit paves the way for more clashes with California on a wide range of issues. California’s State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra has laid down the gauntlet to the Trump administration in a barrage of lawsuits over the president’s education, environmental, healthcare, and immigration policies. Here is what Becerra had to say about the coming fight:
“While the Trump Administration continues to ignore the millions of Americans who voiced strong support for net neutrality rules, California – 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 Attorney General went on to say his office remains “deeply committed to protecting freedom of expression, innovation, and fairness.”
Under California law, if Brown had taken no action, the net neutrality rules would take effect in January.