The Trump administration may have the courts behind its demolishing of net neutrality but states are still able to set their own rules around it, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the repeal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations that prevents internet providers from blocking access to certain sites. The official repeal by Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai went into effect in June 2018 but the appeals court gives it further backing.
“Disappointingly, this ruling affirms the FCC’s decision to give corporations complete power over our data and the open Internet,” said Chad Marlow, senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The bright silver lining, however, is that the ruling bolsters existing state efforts to restore net neutrality, and gives a greenlight for other states to join those efforts.”
That’s a big boon to California, which passed Senate Bill 822 last year to enforce its own internet regulations. Hawaii,Washington, Vermont, Montana, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey also passed net neutrality protections that the FCC attempted to preempt. State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, said California’s remains the strongest.
“We all must have the right to decide — and not have corporations decide for us — where we go on the internet and what information we receive,” Wiener said. ” If the FCC won’t protect consumers and ensure net neutrality, then states have an obligation to stop in, and that’s what we did in California.”
Instead of internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T being allowed to provide faster service to sites with the means to pay, California has stronger legal backing to proceed. (Comcast assures they don’t block or slow down service and are for “legally enforceable net neutrality protections,” at least on one webpage.)
The ruling doesn’t stop Congress from reinstating net neutrality, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed in April. But Sen. Mitch McConnell immediately called it “dead on arrival” and refuses to bring it to the floor.
Other states, however, may be more encouraged to take up the matter on their own. But as expected, the net neutrality advocates vowed to continue the fight for a free and open internet across the country.