A US court of appeals has upheld California's tough network neutrality law, holding that the FCC's move to roll back those rules in 2017 is not enough to block the state's law.
The FCC, under the Trump administration, overturned Title II-focused network neutrality rules that viewed the Internet as a heavily regulated telecommunications service. That led California lawmakers to take up the task of creating their own law in 2018.
The appeals court held that the rollback of network neutrality rules at the FCC effectively reclassified Internet services as an information service, thus erasing its Title II authority. The FCC "no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services," the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explained in the ruling.
The California rules, which ban blocking, throttling and certain anticompetitive paid prioritization, were poised to take effect last year after a federal judge effectively cleared the way. That was a clear blow to telcos and cable operators that argued that the FCC's rollback of the rules preempted the California law.
The Plaintiffs in the case – ACA Connects, CTAI, NCTA and US Telecom – stated they were "disappointed" in the outcome at the 9th Circuit, but "will review our options," according to CNBC.
They also lamented the ping-pong match network neutrality rules have become with each Presidential administration, arguing that Congress needs to finally settle the score. "Once again, a piecemeal approach to this issue is untenable and Congress should codify national rules for an open Internet once and for all," they wrote.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated on Twitter that today's ruling at the 9th Circuit is "good news," adding that the Commission needs to once again take up the issue:
When the last Administration rolled back #NetNeutrality rules, states stepped into the void and put in place their own policies. Today the 9th Circuit upholds California's effort. It's good news. I support Net Neutrality and we need once again to make it the law of the land. pic.twitter.com/pPIunqIMrk— Jessica Rosenworcel (@JRosenworcel) January 28, 2022
Matt Wood, VP of policy and general counsel at Free Press, a network neutrality advocate, agreed.
"But while today's ruling is great news, the job isn't done," Wood said in a statement. "This win is significant because it offers protections to people in our most populous state and drives the national conversation forward. Yet tremendous as it is, we still need the Biden FCC to reclaim its authority not just for nationwide open-internet rules, but for policies promoting affordable, resilient, just and reasonable internet connections for everyone."
He said that would start with the US Senate pushing ahead with the confirmation of Gigi Sohn as the FCC's fifth commissioner (the FCC is currently divided, with two Democrats and two Republicans). The Senate Commerce Committee has set a February 2 vote on the nomination of Sohn, a Democrat.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
(Featured image source: Björn Wylezich/Alamy Stock Photo)