Power outages in Texas shined a new light on the internet situation in the U.S.
What you need to know
- California is now free to enforce its net neutrality law that it tried to enact in 2018 to counter the Trump administration.
- This would make California the first state to enforce its own net neutrality law in the U.S.
- The move could open the door for other states to do the same if the FCC doesn’t act first.
Net neutrality has just scored a major win thanks to a recent federal ruling against the injunction to block the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018. The bill, also known as SB-822, was first drafted in 2018 after the Trump administration rolled back net neutrality protections a year prior. It was initially blocked by the Department of Justice, which dropped the lawsuit just this month, removing one major hurdle to get the bill passed. This recent ruling was another.
The decision is a blow to some of the best 5G carriers and major telecom companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, who have all lobbied against net neutrality for years, arguing that the federal government prevented states from enacting their own net neutrality laws. According to Barbara van Schewick, a Stanford law professor involved in the case, the judge did not buy their argument.
The judge found that the law is on a solid legal foundation and that the ISPs trying to overturn it are not likely to prevail. The judge found, as I’ve long argued, that an agency that says it has no power to regulate, it has no power to tell others they can’t regulate.
Judge John Mendez who presided over the case, reportedly took a moment to correlate the current state of net neutrality with the impact of the recent storms that ravaged Texas and left many without power.
As for the public interest, during the hearing, the judge took a lesson from the Texas winter storms this month. „The government decided to back off on the energy companies… It didn’t serve the public well.“
— Eriq Gardner (@eriqgardner) February 23, 2021
Acting FCC chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, has been a long-time advocate of net neutrality in her years as an FCC commissioner. She also chimed in on the ruling, calling it „big news for open internet policy.“
When the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its #netneutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws. Tonight a court in California decided that the state law can go into effect. This is big news for #openinternet policy.
— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) February 24, 2021
The bill prevents internet service providers (ISPs) from engaging in things like paid prioritization, zeroing out certain content from users‘ data allowance in exchange for monetary gain, failing to accurately disclose network management and performance, and other such anti-consumer acts.
The author of the bill, Sen. Scott Wiener, celebrated the moment as a „huge victory for open access to the internet.“
The internet is at the heart of modern life. We all should be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the internet and how we access information. We cannot allow big corporations to make those decisions for us.
The telecom association behind the lawsuit argued that a state-by-state approach would not work, stating that it would „confuse consumers and deter innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been more apparent,“ further arguing that it should be up to Congress set the mandate. Until that happens, California can soon begin enforcing its own law within its state borders, opening the door for other states to follow suit.
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