Cable Industry And California Want To Move Forward With Net Neutrality Battle

The cable industry and state of California say there's no reason to delay a hearing scheduled for next week on the validity of the state's net neutrality law -- despite the Biden administration's recent decision to withdraw a challenge to the law.

In papers filed Tuesday with U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez in the Eastern District of California, the cable industry says the current administration's stance “has no bearing” on the legality of California's net neutrality rules, which largely reinstate the Obama-era regulations.

But the California attorney general's office says the federal government's decision to abandon its challenge bolsters the argument that the California statute is valid.

Both sides tell Mendez they agree that the Biden administration's move “does not require postponement” of a hearing scheduled for February 23, at which the cable industry will seek an injunction barring enforcement of California's law.

That law (SB 822), enacted in September of 2018, prohibit 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.

In 2015, the FCC passed similar regulations. But in 2017, the Trump-era FCC voted to repeal the rules.

Former 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 needed to prevent broadband providers from limiting people's ability to access streaming video, search engines and other online services.

Several states, including California, responded to the repeal by passing their own versions of net neutrality laws.

The Trump administration challenged the California law, as did the four major broadband industry groups (the American Cable Association, CTIA -- The Wireless Association, NCTA -- The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom -- The Broadband Association) challenged that law in California.

Among other arguments, the cable industry said one state can't regulate an “inherently interstate” service like broadband.

The cable industry's lawsuit was stayed while the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals considered a challenge to the FCC's repeal brought by net neutrality proponents -- including tech companies like Mozilla and advocacy groups.

In 2019 the appellate court partially upheld the decision to revoke the regulations, after which the broadband groups re-started the litigation and renewed their request to block the law.

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