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A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that California could for the first time enforce its strict net neutrality law, paving the way for the state to ban internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and apps. who do not pay for a premium service.

Former Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill in 2018, making California the first state to pass a Net Neutrality Act. Open internet advocates hoped the law would prompt Congress and other states to follow suit. The Trump administration quickly took legal action to block the law, which kept it from taking effect for years as the case stalled in court.

The Biden administration dropped that lawsuit earlier this month. But in a separate lawsuit, the telecommunications industry has asked a federal judge to continue blocking the law. U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez dismissed their request on Tuesday, allowing California to begin enforcing the law.

California State Senator Scott Wiener, Democrat of San Francisco and lawmaker, called the move “a huge victory for open access to the Internet, our democracy and our economy.”

“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,” Wiener said. “We cannot allow big business to make these decisions for us.”

In a joint statement, several telecommunications industry associations said they would review the judge’s ruling “before deciding on next steps.” They urged Congress to set net neutrality rules for the country rather than relying on states to develop regulations themselves.

“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and discourage innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been so evident,” the statement read. from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, ACA Connects, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom.

California law was prompted by the 2017 Federal Communications Commission decision to repeal Net Neutrality rules that applied nationwide. The telecommunications industry has fought fiercely against the bill, arguing that it would discourage businesses from investing in faster internet speeds.

But advocates say without the rules, it would be easy for ISPs to promote their own services by making it harder for customers to access their competitors’ websites and apps.

The law aims to prohibit internet providers from slowing down customer data flows based on the content they are viewing. It also prevents providers from speeding up access to websites willing to pay extra for special treatment.

“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, ”said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

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