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Under Biden, DOJ drops challenge to California’s net neutrality rules

Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice have dropped a legal challenge to California’s Internet regulations that prohibits communications companies from prioritizing data connections of higher-paying customers and throttling connections of budget consumers.

The state’s own network neutrality framework was put in place after the Federal Communications Commission repealed those same protections under the Trump administration. Acting under the administration, lawyers with the DOJ filed a challenge to the state’s net neutrality regulations, saying they were superseded by the FCC‘s earlier decision.

Under a new administration, Democratic lawmakers pressed the DOJ to drop the Trump administration’s lawsuit, which they did this week.

“Plaintiff the United States of America, by and through its counsel, hereby gives notice of its voluntary dismissal of this case,” a notice posted by the U.S. Court said on Monday.

A judge is expected to formally dismiss the case later this month.

The DOJ’s earlier challenge was supported by a consortium of Internet service providers (ISPs) who said the FCC’s decision to revoke its own net neutrality rules should not be usurped by state action.

California lawmakers passed the rules in 2018 in an effort to better protect consumers, something ISPs alleged was not only unnecessary and anti-competitive but outside the scope of their authority.

That challenge will no longer be heard, at least not in federal court and not at the behest of federal prosecutors. The dismissal was applauded by the FCC’s newest chair, Jessica Rosenworcel, who has signed a possible intent to restore the earlier net neutrality rules at the federal level.

“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has withdrawn this lawsuit,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “When the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its net neutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws. By taking this step, Washington is listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly support an open internet, and is charting a course to once again make net neutrality the law of the land.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).