California’s Net Neutrality Rules are Illegal and a Risk to the Country – Pai

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is saying that California’s net neutrality rules are illegal and poses a risk to the country.

The fallout continues over the big moves happening in the network neutrality debate. Earlier this month, California passed network neutrality laws. The move is in direct defiance of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which scrapped the rules last year. When the FCC scrapped the rules and allowed ISPs to run wild, the FCC also explicitly banned states from implementing their own net neutrality laws.

It’s hard to say that there won’t be a major conflict brewing because of all of this. Which side would win out? California as it tries to enforce state rights or the federal regulator that feels they can override state laws? While this seems like a distant thing for the time being, that conflict might seem to be getting a bit closer. Ajit Pai recently stated that the California network neutrality laws are illegal and a threat to the country. From Ars Technica:

Pai targeted the California rules in a speech at the Maine Heritage Policy Center (transcript).

Pai derided what he called “nanny-state California legislators,” and said:

The broader problem is that California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country. After all, broadband is an interstate service; Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area. For if individual states like California regulate the Internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.

Among other reasons, this is why efforts like California’s are illegal. In fact, just last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reaffirmed the well-established law that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law. Last December, the FCC made clear that broadband is just such an information service.

The remarks about internet infrastructure crossing state lines is nothing new. These are comments that have been made by the FCC and chairman since before the laws surrounding network neutrality were revoked. In fact, it is one of the key arguments they made to explain why they banned states from demanding carriers continue to abide by network neutrality rules.

As for the court ruling, Ars Technica points the following out:

We covered that court ruling last week. The ruling preempted Minnesota’s attempt to regulate VoIP phone services offered by cable companies, but there are some key differences between the Minnesota case and the question of whether states can impose net neutrality rules.

The FCC never decided whether VoIP is an information service, and it still imposes some regulations on VoIP. In the net neutrality case, supporters of state rules argue that they can’t be preempted by the FCC because the FCC abandoned its regulatory authority over broadband.

While it is unclear if the FCC has made any next steps to try and force California to back off of efforts to ensure the Internet remains a free market, it is clear that things are heating up on this debate. While there is no discernible timeline of what the future holds for this debate, it seems that it’s not a matter of if there is a legal showdown of some sort, but when.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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