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DOJ Sues California Over New Net Neutrality Rules


California just approved net neutrality rules. The home of Silicon Valley says Internet firms must treat all traffic equally. And as soon as Governor Jerry Brown signed that measure, the Justice Department sued. Here's Ryan Levi of KQED.

RYAN LEVI, BYLINE: California's regulations mirror Obama-era rules which prohibited Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Internet traffic, and from charging more for faster service, among other things. The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal those regulations last December, prompting California State Senator Scott Wiener to write a bill enshrining them in California law.

SCOTT WIENER: So until we get to a place where we have a Congress and a president and an FCC that are willing to do this, we're going to have to fight at the state level to protect the Internet.

LEVI: But within hours of California Governor Jerry Brown signing Wiener's bill into law, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would sue the state over the new rules. Sessions called the new law extreme and illegal and another attempt by California to frustrate federal policy. He says the law violates federal control over interstate commerce. The lawsuit didn't come as a surprise to Wiener.

WIENER: We've known from the beginning that there will be litigation over this bill.

LEVI: That litigation was expected to come from the telecom industry, which opposed Wiener's bill and the Obama-era rules it was modeled after. Wiener says that regardless of who sues, he's confident the law will stand up to legal challenges.

WIENER: They're all entitled to sue. We will vigorously defend this law. And our Attorney General Xavier Becerra has been a strong supporter and ally, and I have complete confidence in him and his team.

LEVI: California isn't the only state to come up with its own net neutrality rules. Oregon, Washington and Vermont have all approved net neutrality legislation, and an identical bill to California's was introduced in New York. But California's rules are seen as the most comprehensive and toughest regulations. And as the most populous state and home of Silicon Valley, they could have a long reach. U.S. Telecom, a trade group that represents the industry, says having different laws in different states isn't the solution. But Ernesto Falcon with the pro-net neutrality Electronic Frontier Foundation says this is only happening because the telecom industry lobbied the FCC to get rid of national net neutrality.

ERNESTO FALCON: They're the ones who've orchestrated the dismantlement of net neutrality. They're the reason why states are having to pass laws in the first place.

LEVI: In the end, it will come down to whether a federal court decides that a state like California can pass a law that conflicts with federal regulations or not. For NPR News, I'm Ryan Levi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Levi