Feds, California Agree to Pause Slugfest Over Net Neutrality

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – The Trump administration and California pressed pause in their battle over net neutrality, with the state agreeing Friday to delay implementing its new net neutrality standards until a decision in a separate lawsuit.

California won’t enforce its new law until the D.C. Circuit and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in on a case filed by more than 20 state attorneys general over the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to nix Obama-era net neutrality rules. Oral arguments begin at the appeals court on Feb. 1.

The federal government sued California this month just hours after California Gov. Jerry Brown inked what has been called the strongest net neutrality laws in the nation. The Trump administration argues California is overstepping boundaries and attempting to regulate interstate commerce with its own net neutrality rules, and wants the law deemed unconstitutional.

“Once again the California Legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy,” Sessions said this month.

Heavy hitters within the telecom industry have also filed suit to stop California’s net neutrality policy.

Senate Bill 822 bars internet service providers such as AT&T and Verizon from slowing or “throttling” internet access and limits “free-data plans” where consumers are allowed to access websites without the data being counted toward monthly limits.

The bill’s author, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, says California has the “responsibility” to hold internet service providers accountable and make sure they aren’t picking favorites.

“Net neutrality ensures open access to the internet and guarantees that each of us can decide for ourselves where to go on the internet, as opposed to internet service providers making that decision for us,” Wiener said in a statement Friday. “I look forward to successful litigation on this issue and to the restoration of strong net neutrality protections in our state.”

As part of the agreement, Sessions and the telecom industry have also pulled their motions for preliminary injunction that were scheduled to be heard Nov. 28 in Sacramento federal court.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called California’s decision to pause SB 822 a “substantial concession,” but reiterated the state’s laws will hurt consumers.

“I am confident that the FCC’s authority to pre-empt such state laws will be upheld, along with our proven market-based framework for protecting internet openness, investment and innovation nationwide,” Pai said in a statement.

The net neutrality lawsuit marks the second time U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sued the Golden State. The Justice Department is also fighting the state’s so-called sanctuary state laws.

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