Net neutrality won’t be challenged in California, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals on April 20th.
Net neutrality is the stance that internet service providers (ISPs) cannot discriminate between the content users choose to access via their services. On a net neutral internet, ISPs can’t redirect traffic to websites that pay them to do so, can’t charge more to access some content than others, and can’t have ‘tiers’ of internet available at different price points.
Without protections for net neutrality, for example, ISP A could charge more to visit websites hosted by customers of ISP B, or could deny access to them all together. Shopping Giant Z could pay ISP A to redirect any and all shopping attempts to their website, regardless of what site the user intended to visit.
There were federal rules put into place under the Obama administration that protected net neutrality. In 2017, under Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC repealed those rules. That repeal classified internet services as ‘lightly regulated’ information services, meaning that unlike with telephone services, the companies get to make most of their own rules. California responded in 2018 by adopting its own net neutrality laws. With so many ISPs headquartered in California, the state law has had the weight of federal law, protecting most internet users in the United States. It’s also stricter than the original Obama-era ruling. Six other states have followed suit.
There have been a number of lawsuits against California’s law by telecom and broadband business groups. Their argument is that the FCCs ruling should mean that states have no jurisdiction to regulate internet services. One such lawsuit reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January. A three-judge panel unanimously decided that states had every right to adopt their own net neutrality decisions. And last week, the Court rejected a petition to rehear that case. That rejection means that the telecom groups’ next course of action is the U.S. Supreme Court.