Get the Quilting Needles: A Patchwork Net Neutrality May Be The Future

By: Noah Vehafric

After the FCC Approved its Restoring Internet Freedom Order, California passed SB822, the “California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018.” This law was an attempt by the State of California to install net neutrality on the state level after the federal government tossed out the policy. 

This was a bold move by the State. With very few exceptions, regulation of the internet was always seen as federal territory. The internet is the ultimate example of an interstate service that Constitution’s commerce clause speaks of. The federal government immediately challenged this law on that basis. 

In January of 2021 however, the Department of Justice under President Biden dropped the case; voluntarily dismissing it. In addition to the suit by the federal government, there was a companion lawsuit launched by various trade associations including NCTA, CTIA, and USTelecom under the same grounds. In February, Judge John Mendez for the Eastern California District Court denied the trade associations request for an injunction against the law.

This raises a series of questions. Democrats in Congress, and democrats on the FCC and the Obama Administration supported (and still support) net neutrality on the federal level. They even argued that the federal government had preemptive authority on this issue in 2015. Will the Biden Administration break with his old boss, colleagues in Congress and his advisors at the FCC and support the rights of states to regulate the internet or completely backtrack and support the federal government’s ability to preempt the states on this once it becomes possible with a majority of in the FCC? 

Any arguments about the merits of net neutrality should be separate from argument about process. There are reasonable arguments made for and against net neutrality, but we should all agree that just like how the ongoing patchwork of state privacy laws are creating more problems than solutions, this net neutrality bill and any of its successors from other states will lead to more problems than it hopes to solve. 

Photo credit: Alvin Trusty