California Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 30 signed legislation that returns key provisions of net neutrality law enacted by the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama.
Brown approved SB822 — dubbed the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 — prohibiting fixed and mobile Internet service providers (ISPs) from engaging in actions concerning the treatment of Internet traffic.
The law prevents ISPs (including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon) from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, impairing (i.e. throttling) or degrading lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, application, service or use of specified practices known as “zero-rating,” which enable users to consume select content without impacting their monthly data caps.
It also denies ISPs from offering or providing services other than broadband Internet access service that are delivered over the same last-mile connection into consumer homes, if those services have the purpose or effect of evading the above-described prohibitions or negatively affect the performance of broadband Internet access service.
The Trump Administration responded with the Department of Justice filing a federal lawsuit claiming the state law violates provisions of the FCC’s rolled back net neutrality guidelines enacted under new chairman Ajit Pai.
“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme and state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”
Pai, who was appointed to the FCC by Obama, and promoted to chairman position by President Trump, has long argued previous net neutrality provisions represented government overreach on private enterprise and thwarted capital investment.
The revamped FCC last December voted to reclassify ISPs as “information service providers.” That action — restoring lighter regulatory oversight — overturned the prior FCC’s 2015 ruling that classified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
“Not only is California’s Internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers,” Pai said, citing “zero rating” data plans he said enable low-income consumers to stream video and music.
“They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace,” Pai said.
Eddie Kurtz, with Courage Campaign, a civil liberties group, applauded the signing of SB822.
“Governor Jerry Brown did the right thing by choosing to institute the strongest net neutrality rules in the country, sending a clear signal to Californians that guaranteeing access to the internet for all, helping California communities — particularly low-income communities — and boosting small businesses is a priority for our state,” said Kurtz.