Federal judge rules that California can enforce its net neutrality law

The judge refused to impose an injunction against the law at the request of trade groups.

Jonathan Alcorn / reuters

A federal judge has ruled that California can enact its net neutrality law, paving the way for the enforcement of rules banning internet service providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down select websites or services. The decision heralds the latest victory for the state after the Department of Justice dropped its legal challenge against the legislation, which has been in limbo since 2018.

Several telecoms trade groups had filed their own lawsuit to block the net neutrality law. But in the latest hearing held on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez expressed concern over the lack of industry regulation in the wake of the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules that applied nationwide, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Judge rejected a push for an injunction from the trade groups and ruled that the law would be allowed to take effect.

The four trade groups behind the lawsuit — the American Cable Association, CTIA, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom — said they would review the court's opinion before deciding how to proceed.

"A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and deter innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been more apparent," they said in a joint statement. "We agree with the Court that a piecemeal approach is untenable and that Congress should codify rules for an open Internet."

California State Senator Scott Weiner, who authored the bill, described the decision as "a major win for net neutrality."

Meanwhile, a Biden-led FCC is expected to take up net neutrality protections on the federal level. The acting chair of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, recently re-emphasized her support for the principles, but added that the agency (currently split 2-2 along party lines) is "conscious of the composition of the commission" as it mulls the best way forward. Biden is expected to nominate a third Democratic member to the Commission soon.