The internet industry is suing the state of California over its days-old net neutrality law.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday by large trade groups representing broadband companies is the second major lawsuit brought against the state against the law — the first was brought by the Justice Department.
On Sunday afternoon, California Governor Jerry Brown signed what is considered the strictest net neutrality law in the country. Under the law, Internet service providers will not be allowed to block or slow down specific types of content or applications, or charge fees to applications or businesses to give customers faster access.
Hours later, the federal government filed a lawsuit alleging that California was “attempting to overturn the Federal Government’s deregulatory approach” to the Internet. The DOJ says states can’t pass laws regulating Internet companies because broadband services cross state lines. It is fighting the state over a clause in the 2017 order that repeals Obama-era federal net neutrality protections. In that order, the FCC said it could preempt state net neutrality laws.
The ensuing legal battle could drag on for months, if not longer, Daniel Lyons, an associate professor at Boston College Law School who specializes in telecommunications and Internet regulation, told CNN.
Much is riding on the result. California’s law is the most comprehensive net neutrality legislation ever passed, and other states are expected to use it as a model for their own laws.
If California wins in court, it would open the door for other states to take similar action. However, the FCC may try to push back on the effort again with a blocking order, Lyons said.
California will likely argue that the preemption provision is invalid, Lyons said, and will try to get an injunction to prevent the federal government from enforcing the law. thus, the law will claim to cause harm if allowed to take effect.
“These attempts to obtain a preliminary injunction appear weak and are likely to fail for the same reasons given by the Internet service provider. [ISP] industry was unable to get the FCC’s earlier net neutrality rules to stay in place in 2015,” said telecommunications attorney Pantelis Michalopoulos, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, who has argued net neutrality cases. “They offer speculative theories about why Internet Service Providers will do it. suffer irreparable injuries. These theories do not appear to meet the preliminary injunction test.”
Industry groups involved in the new lawsuit represent major companies including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, as well as other U.S. cable companies and wireless providers. The groups previously lobbied against the state law. (CNN is owned by AT&T.)
“We oppose California’s action to regulate Internet access because it threatens to negatively affect service to millions of consumers and harm new investment and economic growth. Republican and Democratic administrations have repeatedly approved such action because it is preempted by federal law.” USTelecom, CTIA – The Wireless Association, the Internet & Television Association and the American Cable Association said in a statement. “We will continue our work to ensure that Congress passes bipartisan legislation to create a lasting framework to protect the open Internet that consumers expect and deserve.”
In a statement Wednesday evening, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state would fight to protect its new law.
“This lawsuit was brought by power brokers who have an obvious financial interest in maintaining public access to online content. California, the economic engine of the country, has the right to exercise its sovereign powers under the Constitution and we will do everything we can to protect our 40 million consumers’ right to access information.” Defending a free and open Internet,” said Becerra in a statement.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a co-author of the bill, previously told CNN he expected ISPs to challenge the law.
“Internet service providers have every right to sue California, just as California has every right, a duty, to protect our residents’ access to the open Internet,” Wiener said after the trade groups filed the suit.
CNNMoney (San Francisco) First published on October 3, 2018: 5:46 pm ET