California Faces Lawsuit from Department of Justice After Passing Strict Net Neutrality Law

The law would signify the toughest net neutrality protections in the nation.

A day after passing the nation's strictest net neutrality law yet, California is facing legal action from the U.S. government. The Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit against the state, claiming the law is illegal and attempts to "subvert the Federal Government's deregulatory approach to the internet."

On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown officially signed a bill into law that would prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing specific types of content or apps, or charging companies fees for faster access to costumers. If implemented, the law would mark the strictest protection of net neutrality in the country and a potential predecessor for similar legislation in other states.

But the Trump administration is arguing that the state does not have the right to follow through with the law. "Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement, per CNN. "Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy."

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Department of Justice
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While the law could have a significant impact on both the California economy and business regulation across the U.S., it'll likely face an uphill battle to get there. In addition to facing off against the Department of Justice, the state is expected to see continued pushback from major internet service providers, like AT&T and Comcast. Both companies have fought against the passing of the law, arguing that it would lead to higher costs for customers.

The USTelecom, a group that represents broadband providers, also maintains that "strong and enforceable net neutrality protection" won't be achieved by state laws. "Rather than 50 states stepping in with their own conflicting open internet solutions, we need Congress to step up with a national framework for the whole internet ecosystem and resolve this issue once and for all," Jonathan Spalter, president of the group, said.

It remains unclear how much of a hold the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) legally has over each state's net neutrality protections. The agency maintains it can prevent state laws from passing since broadband service crosses state lines. But state senator Scott Wiener, who co-authored the bill, states he doesn't believe the FCC has that authority.

"We don't think the FCC has the power to preempt state action," he told CNN. "We are prepared to defend this law. We believe that California has the power to protect the internet and to protect our residents and businesses."

In order to keep the law alive, Wiener is sending out a call to action from other states. "It's critically important for states to step in," he said.. "What California does definitely impacts the national conversation. I do believe that this bill ... will move us in a positive direction nationally on net neutrality."

Cover image via kenkistler / Shutterstock

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