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Net neutrality rules ready to roll in California

Network neutrality rules are poised to take effect in California in the wake of a federal judge's ruling Tuesday that effectively clears the way.

The ruling, a clear blow to telcos and cable operators that claim net neutrality mandates add uncertainty to the market and curtail network spending, could be just the latest yo-yo effect on rules that have been altered or rolled back during recent presidential administrations.

This week's ruling could embolden other states to enact their own separate rules and likewise set the table for the FCC, under the Biden administration, to pursue a new set of network neutrality rules that were rolled back under Trump. ISPs had argued that the rollback under Trump effectively obviated California's rules. Notably, the NCTA has previously urged Congress to break this "infinite loop" and establish a long-term set of enforceable rules.

The judge's ruling comes more than three years after California, the US Department of Justice and several trade groups cut a deal that delayed the enforcement of the state's tough network neutrality law that was originally set to take effect in 2019.

In addition to prohibiting ISPs from blocking and throttling data, the California law takes aim at paid interconnection deals and "zero-rating" policies that exempt some traffic from data caps and other usage-based data policies.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC's acting chairwoman, called the court's decision "big news" for open Internet policy:

"This is a huge victory for net neutrality, and bodes well for other states that have adopted net neutrality requirements," Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

The organizations involved in the earlier California action including USTelecom, CTIA, NCTA The Internet & Television Association and ACA Connects were also part of a suit filed against the state of Vermont over that state's move to restore network neutrality rules under its own law.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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