California’s Net Neutrality Law Is Now Moving Forward Following Federal Court Ruling

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An aerial shot of Sacramento, California. Photo Credit: Mark Miller

Almost three years after being signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown, the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act law is moving forward.

Judge John Mendez paved the way for the implementation of the three-year-old law by denying a request from internet service providers (ISPs) to block the measure from going into effect. The stringent law specifically prohibits ISPs from limiting consumers’ access to lawful websites and throttling connections with regard to individual sites or platforms, among other measures.

For additional background, a different appeals court in 2019 upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 decision to scrap Obama-era net neutrality laws – albeit while ruling that the FCC couldn’t overturn the net neutrality measures put into place by states. The decision appeared to set the stage for continued courtroom confrontations between the federal government and certain states, though the Biden administration dropped the FCC’s 2017 net neutrality-focused lawsuit against California earlier this month.

A collection of prominent telecom players, which have long opposed net neutrality measures, then took aim at the California legislation in a complaint of their own, which Judge Mendez dismissed, once again. It’s unclear how – or whether – the absence of net neutrality measures would have affected music streaming platforms in the long term. To be sure, the FCC only voted to officially repeal the Obama-era net neutrality requirements in October of 2020.

Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the rollback, with the other commissioners having voted along party lines on the measure. Jessica Rosenworcel, now the FCC’s acting chairwoman, spoke out against the vote at the time and took to social media to weigh in on Judge Mendez’s dismissal of the suit that ISPs introduced against California’s net neutrality law.

“When the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its #netneutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws. Tonight a court in California decided that the state law can go into effect. This is big news for #openinternet policy,” penned the 49-year-old, whose brother is Guster drummer Brian Rosenworcel.

Despite the December of 2020 FCC appointment of Nathan Simington – who previously served as legal counsel for Senator Thom Tillis – the 86-year-old government agency remains one commissioner short, owing to Rosenworcel’s becoming acting chairwoman.

And in terms of the FCC’s objectives at the upcoming March Open Meeting, Chairwoman Rosenworcel recently specified that the entity intends to consider an order that would “make much-needed mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band available for 5G,” in addition to launching an inquiry into “the benefits and challenges of building 5G radio access networks with open and interoperable technologies.”