Department of Justice Block California Net Neutrality Law

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The government is again trying to shut down California’s net neutrality law

The saga continues.


Andrew Wyrich


The U.S. Department of Justice has restarted its attempts to block California’s net neutrality law, which has been lauded as the “gold standard” for states trying to enact their own regulations in the wake of the federal repeal.

The Department of Justice filed complaints to a federal judge in California’s Eastern District seeking to halt the implementation of California’s law. The move is the latest in a legal back-and-forth between the government and the state regarding its net neutrality law, which was also tied to a major court decision regarding the Federal Communications Commission‘s (FCC) repeal of the rules.

California passed a net neutrality law in 2018, SB-822, that would reinstate protections similar to the ones the FCC repealed. It was called a “gold standard” template for other states to use moving forward. The law went beyond the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules by also banning “zero-rating,” when an internet service provider (ISP) decides that certain services or content won’t count against data caps for a consumer.

Almost immediately after the bill was signed, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against California, arguing that it “unlawfully imposes burdens on the federal government’s deregulatory approach to the internet.”

Telecom groups followed the Justice Department’s lead and also sued the state.

However, both sides agreed to halt the legal battle and implementation of the law until a national challenge to the FCC’s repeal—Mozilla Corporation v. FCC—was settled.

Last October, a panel of three judges handed down their decision in Mozilla v. FCC, largely upholding the FCC’s net neutrality repeal, but vacated a portion of the agency’s order that blocked states from enacting their own laws.

In July, both sides agreed to resume the suits filed by the Justice Department and the telecom groups.

The Justice Department on Wednesday again argued that California’s net neutrality law is “preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The complaint seeks to have a declaratory judgment making California’s law “invalid, null, and void” and an injunction stopping California from enforcing the law.

The Justice Department and the California Attorney General’s office did not immediately return a request for comment by the Daily Dot. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

However, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, called the Justice Department’s actions “shameful” in a tweet late on Wednesday.

“Millions wrote the FCC to say they supported #netneutrality. But the FCC didn’t listen. It rolled back open internet policies, over my objection. So states set out to right what the FCC got wrong, in their own laws. Today DOJ went to court to stop California’s effort. Shameful,” Rosenworcel tweeted.


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