A federal judge ruled Tuesday that California may enforce its strict net neutrality law for the first time, paving the way for the state to prohibit Internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and apps that don’t pay for premium service.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill in 2018, making California the first state to pass a net neutrality law. Advocates of the open Internet hoped the law would prompt Congress and other states to follow suit. The Trump administration quickly sued to block the law, preventing it from taking effect for years while the case was tied up in court.
The Biden administration dropped that lawsuit earlier this month. But in a separate lawsuit, the telecommunications industry asked a federal judge to continue blocking the law. On Tuesday, United States District Court Judge John A. Mendez denied his request, allowing California to begin enforcing the law.
California State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and author of the law, called the ruling “a great victory for open access to the Internet, our democracy and our economy.”
“The Internet is at the heart of modern life. We should all be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the Internet and how we access information, ”Wiener said. “We cannot allow large corporations to make those decisions for us.”
In a joint statement, various telecommunications industry associations said they will review the judge’s decision “before deciding on the next steps.” They urged Congress to establish net neutrality rules for the country instead of relying on states to draw up regulations on their own.
“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and deter innovation, just as the importance of broadband for everyone has never been more apparent,” the statement from the Cellular and Internet Telecommunications Association reads. , ACA Connects, National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom.
California’s law was prompted by the 2017 Federal Communications Commission decision to repeal net neutrality rules that applied across the country. The telecommunications industry fought hard against the bill, arguing that it would discourage companies from investing in faster Internet speeds.
But advocates say that without the rules, it would be easier for ISPs to favor their own services by making it difficult for customers to access their competitors’ websites and applications.
The law seeks to prohibit Internet providers from slowing down customer data flows based on the content they are viewing. It also prohibits providers from speeding up access to websites that are willing to pay more for special treatment.
“The ability of an Internet service provider to block, slow down or speed up content based on the user’s ability to pay for the service degrades the very idea of a competitive marketplace and the open transfer of information at the core of our world. increasingly digital and connected, ”said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.