California’s Network Neutrality Law Upheld on Appeal in 3-0 Decision

Network neutrality in the US is still holding on. In a 3-0 decision, the law was upheld on appeal.

The big telecom lobby has been pushing hard to end network neutrality in the US. After effectively buying out the Republican party, it looked like they had finally gotten control over the Internet thanks to the 3-2 decision to end network neutrality at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2017. This happened at the hands of notorious chairman, Ajit Pai.

Fortunately, a number of different states didn’t take this decision sitting down. Multiple US states, in turn, enacted their own network neutrality laws. Republican’s knew this was going to happen, so that it why they also implemented rules saying that states are not allowed to do this. After all, Republican’s do hate state rights in the first place, so it’s a move that obviously makes sense to them. The states, of course, thumbed their noses at the rules and implemented network neutrality anyway.

Naturally, big telecom didn’t like this. After all, they fought hard to take over the Internet in the US. So, they sued, saying that the FCC forbade the states from protecting their constituents from the affects of gutting network neutrality. Last year, California won a legal victory in this fight as the court forbade ISPs from skirting the network neutrality laws. This as the case proceeded through the courts.

Now, we are learning that California has won a much bigger legal victory. In a landslide 3-0 decision, a US appeals court ruled in California’s favour. They said that the FCC couldn’t dictate to the state what laws they could or couldn’t pass. From Reuters:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 ruling, rejected a challenge from telecom and broad industry groups to block California’s net neutrality law, which aims to protect the open internet.

The panel’s decision said since the FCC under former President Donald Trump reclassified internet services as more lightly regulated information services, the commission “no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services.”

A lower court judge refused to block California’s net neutrality law from taking effect after the Justice Department withdrew its separate legal challenge to California’s state law in February 2021.

The decision is a huge victory for supporters of the free and open Internet. It means ISPs can’t use their position of power to dictate what you can and cannot see online. What’s more is that they can’t slow down your connection for a competing service and ISPs can’t demand what are effectively ransom payments from websites wanting to ensure their websites load in a reasonable manner. In short, US consumers have avoided a lot of awfulness thanks to this ruling.

Chances are, big telecom won’t be happy and the least surprising outcome of this would be word that they would appeal this decision. After all, for them, they stood to make a lot of money controlling the Internet for US customers as it was. They’re not going to just give up so easily. So, while the case is destined to carry on, US Internet users are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief knowing that the free and open Internet is going to continue to survive for now.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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