A federal judge on Tuesday denied a group of internet service providers’ request for a preliminary injunction of California’s net neutrality law, clearing the way for the state to enforce the landmark legislation.
California adopted SB 822 in 2018, requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all web communications equally, prohibiting them from prioritizing or discriminating against traffic and from intentionally speeding up or slowing down certain websites. State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced the legislation after the Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules in 2017.
The Trump administration, joined by a group of ISP trade associations, immediately challenged SB 822 in court, and asked for a preliminary injunction blocking its enforcement last August. The law was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019 but had been put on hold during the litigation.
The newly installed Biden administration withdrew from the case earlier this month, but the coalition of ISPs — which includes ACA Connects and USTelecom — have continued their challenge to the legislation. With U.S. District Judge John Mendez’s Tuesday denial of their motion for an injunction, SB 822 is set to take effect in California, although the litigation is still ongoing.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the decision in a statement, calling it “an important victory for all Californians and for our democracy.”
“We applaud the Court for affirming that California has the power to protect access to the internet, and that net neutrality is vital for healthcare, education, public safety and economic growth,” Becerra said. “The ability of an internet service provider to block, slow down or speed up content based on a user’s ability to pay for service degrades the very idea of a competitive marketplace and the open transfer of information at the core of our increasingly digital and connected world.”
In a joint statement, the ISP trade associations said that they will review the court’s decision before taking next steps in their challenge to the California law.
“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and deter network innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been more apparent,” the groups said. “We agree with the Court that a piecemeal approach is untenable and that Congress should codify rules for an open Internet.”
The case is American Cable Association v. Becerra, case number 2:18-cv-02684, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
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