California Can Enforce Net Neutrality Law — Federal Judge Rules

By McKenzie Carpenter Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The question of whether or not net neutrality can be enforced has been debated in the past 15 years or so. There have been several legislative actions taken by current and past presidential administrations tackling this issue. Recently, a federal judge ruled that California can enforce the net neutrality law, potentially affecting the way people access internet content.

Man working on a computer with Net Neutrality written on the screen.

Net Neutrality Ruling

A federal judge ruled that California can enforce a net neutrality law. Under this law, the state would be able to stop internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and apps that don’t pay for a premium service.

In 2015, under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted net neutrality rules. A year after, those rules were overturned by former President Trump. This then led to California creating its own bill regarding net neutrality regulations.

The bill, SB 822, was first introduced in California in 2018 by former Governor Jerry Brown. At the time, California was the only state to pass a net neutrality law. The Trump administration subsequently sued to block the law, which left the case in the courts for years. While the federal judge declined to grant the telecommunications industry its requested preliminary injunction, the judge stated he believes the decision should be left up to Congress. Consequently, the law can still be taken into effect.

While the case has been in courts for a few years now, the new Biden administration dropped the lawsuit. Democratic California State Senator Scott Weiner, who helped create the original bill, told Forbes, “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.”

Furthermore, four telecom industry leaders released a joint statement saying they “will review the court’s opinion before deciding on next steps.” It will come as no surprise if the telecom industry decides to appeal the judge’s decision.

History of Net Neutrality

The history of this subject is not exactly a long one considering the internet has only been available to the public since the 1990s. However, the first use of the term “network neutrality” came in 2003 when a Columbia University law professor reviewed the discimination practices of broadband operators.

Over roughly the next ten years, the FCC stepped in as there were numerous cases of internet providers blocking or favoring certain websites. This includes cases with companies like Madison River out of North Carolina, Comcast, and even Apple.

Then in 2015 the Obama administration established regulations that were later overturned by the subsequent administration. Eventually, it snowballed into the most recent federal judge ruling in California. The Washington Post wrote that President Biden is feeling pressure to address net neutrality issues, so it will be interesting to see what happens with net neutrality in the future.

About the Author

Headshot of McKenzie Carpenter

McKenzie Carpenter is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a B.A.A. in Integrative Public Relations and French. McKenzie has previously worked for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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