After Appeals Court Rejects Federal Government Preemption Directive, Attorney General Becerra Defends California’s Net Neutrality Law in Court

Thursday, September 17, 2020
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SACRAMENTO – As the Trump Administration and a consortium of the nation’s largest internet service providers attempt to shut down California’s net neutrality law, yesterday California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a brief defending California’s law, following a federal appeals court rejection of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preemption directive. In the filing opposing the Trump Administration's motion for preliminary injunction, Attorney General Becerra argues that California's net neutrality law is legal and that the protection of access to a free and open internet is critically important to public health, safety, and welfare. In 2018, California passed the most comprehensive net neutrality law in the nation, but enforcement is on hold pending the ruling on these motions.

“The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that Californians deserve access to a free and open internet,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Equal and fair internet access is crucial to every aspect of modern life, including public health and safety, education, and work. The internet is not only a foundation of our economy, but also a staple of our democracy – we’re fighting to keep it that way.”

In 2018, the FCC, led by President Trump’s appointee Chairman Ajit Pai, repealed the Obama-era net neutrality rules and at the same time attempted to block states from enacting their own net neutrality laws. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC lacked authority to block state net neutrality laws. Despite that loss, the Trump Administration continues to press its efforts to stifle these critical net neutrality protections. The Trump Administration has been joined in its effort by the trade associations for major broadband providers, the very entities that have engaged in blocking, throttling, zero-rating, and other anti-competitive practices that net neutrality rules were adopted to address. On August 5, the Administration and internet service provider plaintiffs asked the district court to issue a preliminary injunction against enforcement of California’s law. 

In the brief, Attorney General Becerra argues that nothing in federal law prevents California from adopting and enforcing its own net neutrality law, and that free, open access to the internet is critically important to protect public health, safety, and welfare, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many essential activities are taking place online.

Attorney General Becerra has steadfastly worked to ensure Californians can access a free and open internet. In January 2018, Attorney General Becerra and 21 other state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s efforts to roll back net neutrality rules. In October 2019, Attorney General Becerra secured a ruling vacating the FCC’s Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing their own net neutrality requirements. 

A copy of the brief is available here.

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