The Trump administration has said that network neutrality will cause “irreparable harm” to the country. Through the DOJ, they are suing California.
It seems Republican’s are no fan of state rights these days.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted strictly on partisan lines to scrap network neutrality. Part of the passage included a strict ban on states setting up network neutrality laws on their own. Last month, however, California defied those rules and passed network neutrality laws to protect their citizens. So, the most predictable thing to happen is a legal battle at that point.
That legal battle is now happening. Reports are surfacing saying that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now suing the state of California. In part of a statement, the Trump administration directed government body states the following:
In filing the complaint, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the following statement:
“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce—the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy. The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order. We will do so with vigor. We are confident that we will prevail in this case—because the facts are on our side.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued the following statement:
“I’m pleased the Department of Justice has filed this suit. The Internet is inherently an interstate information service. As such, only the federal government can set policy in this area. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently reaffirmed that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law.
“Not only is California’s Internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers. The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits. They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans. But notwithstanding the consumer benefits, this state law bans them.
“The Internet is free and open today, and it will continue to be under the light-touch protections of the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Department of Justice to ensure the Internet remains ‘unfettered by Federal or State regulation,’ as federal law requires, and the domain of engineers, entrepreneurs, and technologists, not lawyers and bureaucrats.”
The lawsuit is being further analyzed by Ars Technica which notes the following:
The DOJ’s motion for a preliminary injunction claims that implementation of the law would cause “irreparable harm” to the United States. It isn’t realistic for ISPs to comply with different net neutrality standards in different states, the DOJ argued, so the California law would effectively govern the entire nation.
“Because its regulatory approach directly conflicts with the FCC’s, SB-822 inflicts irreparable harm on both the United States as well as the public interest more generally,” the DOJ told the court. “As this Court recently noted, ‘[t]he United States suffers injury when its valid laws in a domain of federal authority are undermined by impermissible state regulations,’ and ‘[f]rustration of federal statutes and prerogatives are not in the public interest.'”
By contrast, “California will suffer no cognizable harm from being unable to disrupt the status quo by enforcing an invalid law,” the DOJ claimed.
California’s net neutrality law “is expected to be enforced through litigation under California’s Unfair Competition law, which authorizes courts to issue an injunction against and impose civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation” on violators, the DOJ lawsuit said. Under that California law, lawsuits can be pursued against companies by the state attorney general, district attorneys, county counsels, and city attorneys. Private citizens can pursue lawsuits if they are directly harmed by a company’s actions.
So, at this point, we’ve gone from a legal battle being only a matter of time to “it’s happening”. So, state rights to govern themselves will no doubt be close to the centre of the debate among other things. There’s plenty of speculation as to where things will go from here, but one thing is for sure, things are about to get even more interesting again in this debate.