Net neutrality died a horrible death in 2017, but things have just turned around: California’s landmark net neutrality law — erected in 2018 but immediately blocked by lawsuits from Trump’s Department of Justice and the telecom industry — can finally be enforced.
That’s the verdict from Judge John Mendez today, who declined to grant the telecom industry the preliminary injunction it had requested. The case might not be over, but the law can go into effect — and the judge doesn’t think the telecom industry is likely to win.
And from Jon Brodkin for Ars Technica:
Mendez reportedly was not swayed by ISPs’ claims that a net neutrality law isn’t necessary because they haven’t been blocking or throttling Internet traffic.
“I have heard that argument and I don’t find it persuasive,” Mendez said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s going to fall on deaf ears. Everyone has been on their best behavior since 2018, waiting for whatever happened in the DC Circuit [court case over the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality]. I don’t place weight on the argument that everything is fine and we don’t need to worry.”
Mendez, who was nominated by President Bush in 2008, also said, “This decision today is a legal decision and shouldn’t be viewed in the political lens. I’m not expressing anything on the soundness of the policy. That might better be resolved by Congress than by federal courts.”
As we’ve noted a few times, there’s a misinformed refrain in some tech policy circles that goes something like this: “the internet didn’t immediately implode in a rainbow, therefore net neutrality’s repeal must not have mattered.” That’s wrong for several reasons.
One, ISPs are still violating net neutrality, they’re just being more clever about it (see: AT&T only charging you broadband overage fees if you use a competitor’s service). Two, the only reason ISPs behaved half as well as they did is because they were awaiting a federal legal ruling, and worried about running afoul of state net neutrality rules. Three, killing net neutrality didn’t just kill “net neutrality,” it dismantled the FCC’s consumer protection authority over everything from anticompetitive behavior to billing fraud. If you’re applauding the government ignoring the public and neutering itself because some Comcast lobbyists told it to, you might not be half as clever as you think you are.
I’m glad to live in a state that is leading by example when it comes to the internet.