Broadband Providers Urge Court To Reconsider California Net Neutrality Law

Broadband providers are telling a federal appellate court that its recent decision upholding California's net neutrality law will result in a “patchwork of conflicting laws” that “will harm broadband deployment and cause customer confusion.”

“Whether broadband Internet access service ... will continue to be subject to a uniform, nationwide regulatory regime is a question of exceptional importance,” broadband industry groups write in papers filed Friday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The organizations argue that the court's decision to allow California to enforce its open internet law will result in new, potentially onerous regulations in other states.

“At worst, it will allow the most restrictive state to dictate national internet policy,” the industry groups add.

The organizations are seeking a new appellate hearing at the 9th Circuit.

The groups' argument comes two weeks after a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block California's law.

That measure, passed in 2018, prohibits broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic, charging higher fees for fast-lane service, and exempting their own video streams from consumers' data caps.

The Federal Communications Commission passed similar regulations in 2015, but repealed those rules during the Trump administration.

Former agency head Ajit Pai, who shepherded the repeal of the Obama-era rules, called them “heavy handed” and claimed they depressed investment.

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

Four broadband industry groups challenged California's measure, arguing that internet access is an interstate service, and therefore not subject to state laws. The industry groups sought a court order prohibiting the state from enforcing the law.

U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez in Sacramento rejected the broadband industry's arguments and refused to block the law from taking effect. The providers then appealed to the 9th Circuit, which also rejected the carriers' arguments.

Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder said in a written ruling that the industry's arguments are undercut by the fact that internet providers are subject to other state laws.

“The FCC itself recently acknowledged the states’ role in, among other things, policing fraud, taxation, general commercial dealings, and enforcing fair business practices in the field of interstate broadband services,” Schroeder wrote. “The realities of today show a dual-system of regulation that refutes the service providers’ argument.”

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