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WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Tuesday paved the way for California to enforce its net neutrality law, denying a call by telecommunications providers to delay state rules designed to ensure equal access to internet content .

Judge John Mendez of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has dismissed a preliminary injunction motion filed by the group of internet service providers that brought an action to prevent the state law from coming into force. 2018.

Net neutrality is the idea that all Internet content must be accessible to consumers and that broadband providers cannot block or degrade content, especially sites and services that compete with their own services.

California law was created after the Trump-era Federal Communications Commission in 2017 rolled back its federal net neutrality regulations. The Justice Department immediately sued the state to overturn its law. The broadband providers, through their business groups, followed with a motion for a preliminary injunction to end California law while the lawsuit went through the courts.

Business groups suing the state said in a joint statement that they are reviewing the court ruling and deliberating on next steps. But they opposed state laws that create a patchwork of regulations for broadband providers.

“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and discourage innovation, just as the importance of broadband for everyone has never been more evident,” the groups said.

The court ruling paves the way for California to enact its law, a ruling that would have to be replicated by other states in the absence of federal rule. Washington, Vermont and Oregon are among a handful of states that also enacted laws after the federal rules were overturned.

“We applaud the court for asserting that California has the power to protect Internet access,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “The ability of an Internet service provider to block, slow down, or speed up content based on a user’s ability to pay for a service degrades the very idea of ​​a competitive marketplace and the open transfer of information to the Internet. heart of our increasingly digital and connected world. . “

The Biden administration should support the reinstatement of federal net neutrality rules. A month after the new administration began, the Justice Department dropped its lawsuit against California law, leaving only the telecommunications industry’s preliminary injunction request as the final hurdle to entry into force. of the law.

Scott Wiener, the California state senator who drafted the law, called the decision a victory. “The Internet is at the heart of modern life. We should all be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the Internet and how we access information. We cannot allow big companies to make these decisions for us, ”he said.

Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat who is the interim president of the FCC, fiercely opposed the agency’s decision in 2017 to abolish net neutrality regulations. She has not announced her intention to restore federal rules. She focused on a congressional mandate to bridge the digital divide for broadband access to low-income Americans.

“When the FCC, despite my objection, rescinded its #netneutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws,” she said in a tweet. “Tonight a California court ruled that state law can come into effect. This is great news for the #openinternet policy. “

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