The Department of Justice wants to stop California from having net neutrality

Posted on Aug 7, 2020 by Caleb Chen
department of justice wants to stop california from having net neutrality

The US Department of Justice has filed for an injunction to stop California from implementing their own net neutrality laws. Net neutrality has been repealed in the United States Federal Communication Commission (FCC) effective since summer 2018, and now the effort of states to bring their citizens back under net neutrality protections is being challenged by federal law. In the wake of the FCC repeal of net neutrality laws in 2017, many states sought to pass their own net neutrality laws. The same thing occurred after the repeal of broadband privacy laws in 2017. In the case of broadband privacy which was passed at the state level in Maine, the internet service providers (ISPs) actually tried to stop the law from being enacted by claiming that their right to selling profiles of user internet activity and history is part of their constitutional right to free speech. In the case of net neutrality, California was the largest state to pass net neutrality rules for internet companies and users within its borders. As part of the FCC repeal of net neutrality laws, the FCC actually included language that would forbid individual states or smaller jurisdictions from passing their own net neutrality laws.

The federal government doesn’t want net neutrality in any form anywhere in the country

The net neutrality decision at the federal level is still under review by the US Court of Appeals. Most recently, in October 2019, a district court largely upheld the FCC repeal of net neutrality and emphasized that states could implement their own net neutrality rules. Despite this ruling that says net neutrality laws can be implemented by states, the Justice Department still feels otherwise. According to the court schedules, the court decision on the preliminary injunction sought by the DOJ will not be made until October 2020 at the earliest.

Unlike in the case of broadband privacy, this preliminary injunction is being sought by the US government and not the individual ISPs that would be affected. In the case of broadband privacy, the ISPs had to sue to stop the state level laws themselves. It seems that in the case of net neutrality, the ISPs don’t need to do so because the government is willing to do the dirty work for them. The thing is, one of the cruxes of the reason why the FCC repealed net neutrality laws was because they felt they shouldn’t be able to regulate the ISPs as Title II carriers. However, the FCC and federal government want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to give up federal oversight of ISPs but also want to leave just enough oversight to forbid states from enacting the same laws. The California Attorney General commented to Reuters that he will defend net neutrality in California from this illogical challenge, saying that he:

“look[s] forward to defending California’s state net neutrality protections.”