Biden Administration Abandons Challenge To California Net Neutrality Law

The Department of Justice on Monday withdrew a lawsuit challenging California's net neutrality law, which largely requires broadband providers that offer service in the state to follow the Obama-era broadband regulations.

But the California law still faces a challenge from the broadband industry, which argues that states can't regulate an “inherently interstate” service like broadband.

California's SB 822, which was signed into law in October of 2018, prohibits broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic, charging higher fees for fast-lane service, and from exempting their own video streams from consumers' data caps.

Those provisions largely mirror rules passed by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission, but repealed in 2018 by the current Republican-led agency. When the FCC repealed the Obama-era rules, the agency also attempted to prevent states from imposing net neutrality requirements on broadband providers.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who shepherded the repeal, says the prior rules were “heavy handed,” and claimed that they depressed investment.

But net neutrality advocates say the rules were necessary to prevent broadband providers from limiting consumers' ability to access streaming video, search engines and other online services and content.

Within an hour of its enactment, the Republican-led Justice Department sued to block the measure.

President Joe Biden ran on a platform that included restoring net neutrality, and acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has repeatedly voted in favor of the Obama-era rules.

Rosenworcel praised the Justice Department's decision to withdraw its lawsuit Monday.

“When the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its net neutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws,” she stated. “By taking this step, Washington is listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly support an open internet, and is charting a course to once again make net neutrality the law of the land.” 

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