California Backs Down, Won’t Enforce Net Neutrality for Now

Consumers hoping California will protect their interests will have to wait a little longer. They agreed to wait for lawsuit resolutions.

When it comes to laws protecting consumers, American’s may now have to wait a little longer. California has passed laws that would protect network neutrality in the state in direct defiance of federal regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As a result, the state has become ground zero in the war to protect consumers with network neutrality.

Of course, the FCC and the big US ISPs haven’t exactly been thrilled with California’s consumer protection stance. In response, the Trump administration through the Department of Justice (DOJ) has sued California, saying that the consumer protection laws would cause irreparable harm. Following in close lock-step, the ISP industry separately sued California knowing that the laws could impede potential profits of a non-neutral Internet.

Now, there has been a development that many are seeing as a huge setback for consumer rights. In a temporary agreement, the state of California has agreed with the DOJ to not enforce network neutrality until the lawsuits have been resolved. This means that, for the time being, there will be a regulatory gap in consumer protections in the interim. From CNET:

Scott Weiner, the state senator who drafted California’s legislation, said he supports the deal.

“Of course, I very much want to see California’s net neutrality law go into effect immediately, in order to protect access to the internet,” he said in a statement. “Yet, I also understand and support the attorney general’s rationale for allowing the DC Circuit appeal to be resolved before we move forward to defend our net neutrality law in court.”

The coalition of industry groups also suing California over its law applauded the deal, too.

“California’s decision not to enforce its law regulating the internet while the DC Circuit reviews the FCC’s 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order is a win for consumers that will allow continued innovation and investment while these deliberations continue,” the groups USTelecom, CTIA, NCTA, and ACA said in a statement. “Our companies support an open internet, and we urge Congress to resolve this issue by passing a national framework to protect that principle for all Americans.”

If anything, this will put an emphasis on how things go in court. While that may simplify things to some degree, there’s also the political side that could determine the outcome of these lawsuits. Keep in mind that, by the time these laws get to the supreme court (assuming they get to the supreme court of course), the bench will be filled with conservative judges who likely won’t have a problem backing the Trump administration. So, the ability for network neutrality to survive in the courts is seemingly a long shot.

With that in mind, this could very well mean the end of the road for net neutrality. Obviously, with midterms around the corner, plenty could change. Unfortunately, that puts the debate largely on the sidelines with one side pretty much scoring a near total victory. Those who are fighting to keep the Internet open now have to wait for general politics to swing the other direction before they are even back in the game. Obviously, not a situation Internet supporters want to be on, but it is a position they likely find themselves in thanks to this deal.

While the news is grim for open Internet supporters, there is a silver lining in all of this. It means that VPN services could find themselves making huge money. This was highlighted in a recent survey with large portions of American’s finding themselves fleeing to various VPN services for any hope that they can continue to enjoy the open Internet. So, if American’s want to keep enjoying the open Internet, they may have to pay just a little more through third parties to get it.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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