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Justice Department Sues California Over Net-Neutrality Law

Photo: Getty Images

Over the weekend, California’s governor signed the state’s new law protecting net neutrality. The legislation, Senate Bill 822, barred ISPs from blocking lawful content, throttling customer speeds, or creating “fast lanes” for large edge providers like Google and Facebook.

The bill, the first in the nation since the Republican-controlled FCC rolled back protections earlier this year, effectively restored the 2015 Open Internet Order in the state. That order stipulated that internet-service providers could not discriminate against or prioritize certain traffic on their network (in other words, they had to keep the net neutral). Hours after it was signed into law, the Justice Department filed a suit over it.

“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,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

California attorney general Xavier Becerra said in response that the Justice Department was ignoring American consumers, who overwhelmingly support net neutrality regardless of political party.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai took time away from desperately trying to convince people he’s cool and not lame to support the Justice Department’s decision. “I’m pleased the Department of Justice has filed this suit,” he wrote. “The Internet is inherently an interstate information service. As such, only the federal government can set policy in this area.”

Weird how Pai doesn’t think the FCC has any authority over the internet when it suits the telecom industry, but does think he has authority over it when someone else tries to help out consumers. Anyway!

This suit seems less of a question over whether net-neutrality regulations are legal and more a question over jurisdiction — do states or the federal government have authority over ISPs? In any case, it’s probably going to drag on in the courts for a while.

Justice Department Sues California Over Net-Neutrality Law