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DOJ Sues California Over Net Neutrality Law

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 01, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The fight over net neutrality continues, and the battleground has moved to the Golden State. Last year, President Trump's Federal Communications Commission overturned Obama-era regulations that prohibited internet service providers from charging users different prices based on the user, content, or website. Then this year the Senate voted to reinstate net neutrality rules. All the while, California was crafting its own net neutrality legislation, a bill Governor Jerry Brown signed into law over the weekend.

But the feds aren't too pleased with the state action on the matter, and the Justice Department has already filed a suit seeking to block California's net neutrality law. You can see the lawsuit below.

State v. Fed

California's net neutrality statute prohibits internet service providers from blocking or throttling lawful traffic. It also bans ISPs from charging websites or online services extra fees to deliver or prioritize their traffic to consumers, or attempting to evade net neutrality protections by slowing down traffic at network interconnection points.

"The Internet is inherently an interstate information service," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "As such, only the federal government can set policy in this area."

Cal v. FCC

"Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted, "the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy." Generally speaking, Sessions is not wrong. The Constitution does give Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, and, for the most part, federal law trumps state law on the same issue.

The essential question in this case, is whether FCC directives are the same as congressional legislation. As Ars Technica notes, a federal appeals court recently struck down previous FCC efforts to preempt state laws that restricted the growth of municipal broadband networks. And California has notoriously had stricter environmental controls than the federal Environmental Protection Agency requires. So, the FCC's case against California may not be a slam dunk.

You can read the full suit here:

DOJ v CA Net Neutrality by FindLaw on Scribd

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