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Feds move to block California’s net neutrality law

Feds move to block California’s net neutrality law


The DOJ sued the state over its law in 2018

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Image: Alex Castro / The Verge

On Wednesday, the US Justice Department asked a federal judge to block California’s pivotal net neutrality law, according to Reuters.

In 2017, the Trump Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era internet regulations that barred internet service providers from throttling or blocking traffic and instituting paid fast lanes. In August 2018, California passed its own law upholding those net neutrality principles at the state level; now, the US government is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the law before the state is able to enforce it.

The Department of Justice filed suit against California soon after the law was passed, but the case was put on hold as legal challenges to the initial FCC order were adjudicated. With this latest request, the Justice Department is seeking to suspend implementation of the California law as the case proceeds.

The California law won its first challenge last year

The California law won its first challenge last year. After the FCC reversed its net neutrality rules in 2017, the agency’s decision was challenged in court by a coalition of organizations including Mozilla. The petitioners argued that the FCC’s decision was unlawful, founded on poor analysis of the internet service market, and would harm public safety. California agreed not to enforce its own law before the courts ruled on this case because the FCC had included language in its reversal that would preempt states from rolling out their own net neutrality rules.

In October 2019, the FCC’s reversal was mostly upheld, but the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC did not have the legal authority to prohibit states from passing their own net neutrality regulations. According to Reuters, the Justice Department believes that the FCC’s ruling preempts state laws like California’s. 

The California attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge but told Reuters that the office was reviewing the Justice Department’s filing. 

A decision on the Justice Department’s filing isn’t expected until at least mid-October.