California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Net Neutrality Law, But Trump Admin Says It Will Sue

Jerry Brown GETTY - H 2016
Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune

The legislation would undo in California an FCC decision that itself reversed Obama-era rules.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed the country’s strongest net neutrality bill, but top Justice Department officials almost immediately told The Washington Post that the Trump Administration would sue to block the legislation, a move it could take as early as Monday and that could ultimately send to a divided Supreme Court a high-profile battle over states’ rights, federal regulatory agencies, consumer protection and telecommunications in the internet era.

The bill, which will otherwise take effect Jan. 1, effectively reverses in California a decision last year by Republican appointees to the Federal Communications Commission that eliminated Obama-era rules requiring Internet providers such as cable and telephone companies to adhere to net neutrality — the principle that prohibits them from blocking or throttling particular websites or content providers based on content or favoring others that pay extra, a practice called paid prioritization. Wireless internet access is not affected by the California law.

“We applaud Governor Brown and the California Legislature for once again proving that if our federal government fails to protect its citizens, California will step in and lead the way,” the Writers Guild of America West said in a statement. “This landmark net neutrality legislation will serve as a model for states nationwide to follow. The Internet today is where we connect, where we organize and speak freely, and where we can choose what content we consume. With increasing attacks on our First Amendment rights and widespread corporate concentration, preserving an open Internet free from ISP interference is more important now than ever.”

But an industry spokesperson argued for a Congressional solution to a matter that has whipsawed in and out of the courts and FCC and led to face-offs between tech and entertainment companies, as well as periodic public uproars.

“We all support strong and enforceable net neutrality protections for every American — regardless of where they may live,” said USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter. “But this bill is neither the way to get there, nor will it help advance the promise and potential of California’s innovation DNA. Rather than 50 states stepping in with their own conflicting open internet solutions, we need Congress to step up with a national framework for the whole internet ecosystem and resolve this issue once and for all.”