In a 2-1 vote at the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, judges ruled that California could adopt its own net neutrality laws.
Net neutrality, the rule that forbids internet providers from charging more or setting different speeds for visiting certain sites, using certain programs, or being a certain user, has undergone several legal changes in the past 4 years. In 2015 new federal rules were put in place to protect net neutrality from internet providers. Two years later in 2017 the Federal Communications Commission changed the rules that paved the way to allow internet providers to set charges and speeds.
With the California ruling, the power for net neutrality laws seems to be going toward individual state laws, with other states besides California expressing interest in their own neutrality laws. However both the FCC and the Department of Justice are fighting the newest ruling and are set to appeal it.
Those in favor of net neutrality celebrated the ruling.
“If the FCC won’t protect consumers and ensure net neutrality, then states have an obligation to step in, and that’s what we did in California,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “I’m thrilled that the court rejected the FCC’s effort to preempt state net neutrality laws.”
Senator Wiener was the author of SB 822, the bill that gave California net neutrality just last year. He has been noted for his strong support of net neutrality and has stated several times that he believes that the internet is a need and that net neutrality makes it available fairly for everyone.
Opponents have warned that enacting net neutrality measures will actually lead to a rise in internet costs and could make it possible for the internet itself to be governed.
Opposed to SB 822, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), is concerned if California is allowed to keep its current net laws following future rulings. “Because zero-rating is no longer permitted, consumers will be required to pay for services they previously received for free, “said Assemblyman Obernolte. “This law is not only unconstitutional but also enacts the harshest regulations on internet service of any state in the country.”
The ruling in D.C. has also brought out numerous organizations both for and against neutrality. Organizations such as the ACLU were in Washington in support, while telecom and internet providers such as AT&T kept a close eye on the ruling. Telecom companies have also joined the FCC and the Justice Department in suing California over neutrality.
Internet providers were concerned that the ruling could lead to other states interested in net neutrality to enact their own laws against the federal FCC law, while opponents claimed that getting rid of net neutrality could lead to discrimination of uses and raising their rates because of what sites they viewed or how much they used it.
While the state is now free to enact its own neutrality rulings due to the Wednesday ruling, the lingering appeals and lawsuits may make this victory for net neutrality proponents short-lived.