Trump Administration Sues California Over Net Neutrality Law

(Bloomberg) -- Just after California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state net neutrality bill in defiance of federal regulations, the Trump Administration asked a court to block California from attempting to restore Obama-era rules requiring open access to the internet.

The measure signed Sunday by Brown, a Democrat, prohibits internet service providers in California from stratifying users and websites by who can pay for faster surfing speeds and service. If the law stands, broadband providers including Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. will be blocked in the state from slowing traffic on their airwaves while charging consumers for faster access.

The Trump Administration filed a complaint in federal court in Sacramento accusing California of trying to ”second-guess” the government’s regulatory authority over internet providers. The Federal Communications Commission in January unraveled 2015 rules that prohibited companies from blocking or throttling content.

“States do not regulate interstate commerce -- the federal government does,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

The Justice Department said in its complaint that the Obama administration’s neutrality policy was a ”sharp but brief departure” from “longstanding” FCC norms. The Trump Administration claims the regulations that took effect June 11 will counter the harmful effects of the 2015 rules that increased the cost of investment and innovation for internet service providers beyond any benefits they would offer.

The California law is the latest expression of Brown’s ideological defiance of the Trump administration on issues ranging from environmental regulation to immigration. The state joins Washington, Oregon and Vermont in adopting its own net neutrality rules since the FCC’s rollback.

“While the Trump Administration does everything in its power to undermine our democracy, we in California will continue to do what’s right for our residents,” California Senator Scott Wiener said. “Today marks a true win for the internet and for an open society. “

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to defend the new law.

California “will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load,” Becerra said. “We remain deeply committed to protecting freedom of expression, innovation and fairness.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.