Justice Department Sues to Stop California Net Neutrality Law

By Cecilia Kang


Gov. Jerry Brown of California has been a forceful opponent to many of President Trump’s actions, including immigration and environmental deregulation.CreditCreditRich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The Justice Department on Sunday sued California to stop the state’s new law that would guarantee full and equal access to the internet, a principle known as net neutrality, in the latest legal skirmish between the state and the Trump administration.

The suit was filed shortly after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, which is one of the strongest efforts in the nation to restore internet access rules since they were rolled back by the Federal Communications Commission last year. Governor Jerry Brown has been a forceful opponent to many of the president’s actions, including immigration and environmental deregulation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that California’s net neutrality law was illegal because Congress granted the federal government, through the Federal Communications Commission, the sole authority to create rules for broadband internet providers.

“States do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” Mr. Sessions said in a statement. “Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

The California law positioned the state as a standard-bearer for internet regulation. The state’s net neutrality rules follow the creation of an internet privacy law in June. And like California’s auto emissions laws that forced automakers to adopt the standards for all production, the state’s new net neutrality rules could push broadband providers to apply the same rules to other states.

Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, said the state would defend its new law.

California “will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load,” Mr. Becerra said. “We remain deeply committed to protecting freedom of expression, innovation and fairness.”