California Net Neutrality Law to Take Effect

John Lister's picture

A federal judge says California can begin enacting a controversial law on net neutrality. Broadband companies who are suing to have the law thrown out had argued it should be put on hold until that case is complete.

Net neutrality is a broad principle that all Internet traffic should be treated in the same way. Translated into practical effects that could mean barring broadband carriers from blocking otherwise legal content or charging extra to access specific services (such as Netflix).

Federal rules on net neutrality have been a particularly contentious issue. At the moment that Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) position is that broadband doesn't count as a "telecommunications service" that it has the power to regulate under existing rules. Instead, it holds that states or Congress would need to pass laws.

Blocks And Throttling Barred

That's what California did with a law known as SB-822, passed in September 2018. It bans carriers from a range of ways to treat (legal) content and sites, including outright blocks, slowing down access, or charging extra fees. It also bans zero-rating, where carriers don't count traffic to some sites towards the data use of a customer on a capped plan.

Before it took force, the law came under challenges from both the federal government and a group representing the broadband carrier industry. The government challenge was dropped earlier this year after the change of administration.

Judge Dismisses "Irreparable Harm" Argument

Enforcement had been on hold pending the outcome of these challenges. The lawyers for the broadband companies said this was necessary as they were arguing the state law is unconstitutional. They said if the state was allowed to enforce the law and it was later struck down, it could cause irreparable harm. They also argued the law was unnecessary because they haven't been carrying out the banned activities anyway. (Source:

A judge has now removed the block on enforcement. He rejected the arguments that the law was inherently unnecessary or would cause irreparable harm. He added that while the case remains to be heard, the broadband companies haven't yet offered clear enough evidence that the law is legally unsound to justify blocking enforcement now. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you support net neutrality laws and regulations? Should this be a state or federal issue? In this case, should the law have been put on hold until the legal challenge is determined?

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