Capitol Alert

New net neutrality law sends California, Trump to court once again

What is net neutrality?

The F.C.C. repealed rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how it works.
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The F.C.C. repealed rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how it works.

No sooner had California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a net neutrality bill on Sunday than the Trump administration challenged it in court.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Sunday night, just hours after Brown signed the bill barring internet service providers from slowing customer speeds, blocking access to lawful content and offering “fast lanes” for large sites like Facebook, Google and Netflix.

Sessions said in a statement, “Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy. … We have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order. We will do so with vigor. We are confident that we will prevail in this case – because the facts are on our side.”

The net neutrality protections proposed under Senate Bill 822 by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, aim to curb what Wiener sees as an effort to undermine consumer rights.

“While the Trump administration does everything in its power to undermine our democracy, we in California will continue to do what’s right for our residents,” Weiner said in a statement. “Net neutrality, at its core, is the basic notion that we each get to decide where we go on the internet, as opposed to having that decision made for us by internet service providers.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded to the Trump administration’s lawsuit, saying in a tweet that California “will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load.”

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee on Monday, Becerra promised a vigorous defense of the law. “Innovation and choice should drive this Internet economy, not constrained and selective determinations of who should be the winner and who should be the loser,” he said. “All of us should have unrestricted access to information and we should not have that information throttled, one way or the other, simply because there are a few robber barons who get to control the flow of that information.”

The federal government isn’t the only group prepared to fight in court. The bill has also drawn criticism from the telecom industry — which is likely to file lawsuits in the near future seeking to overturn the measure.

The United States Telecom Association said in a statement it supports strong net neutrality protections but thinks the matter should be left to the federal government.

“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,” the association said in a statement.

Wiener said in a statement that Brown’s signature marks “a historic day for California” and is a “true win for the internet and for an open society.”

Angela Hart of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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