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Feb. 8, 2021, 5:38 p.m. EST

DOJ drops California lawsuit, opening door for return of net neutrality

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Chris Matthews

The Department of Justice is withdrawing a lawsuit aimed at blocking California from establishing statewide net neutrality laws after the Federal Communications Commission repealed similar federal laws in 2018.

The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality was controversial at the time, and opposed by Democrats on the commission, including Jessica Rosenworcel, the current acting head of the communications regulator.

“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has withdrawn this lawsuit,” Rosenworcel said in a statement Monday.

“When the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its net neutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws,” she added. “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.”

Net neutrality laws prevent internet services providers from discriminating against certain content or data than is transmitted over its networks. After the FCC overturned its rule enforcing net neutrality several states, including California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington enacted laws of their own.

California still cannot begin enforcing its rules, however, because the internet-service provider industry is suing the state in a separate suit, and the formal pause of California’s implementation will continue until those cases are resolved, according to Matt Wood, vice president of policy and general counsel at Free Press, nonpartisan group that advocates for affordable internet access.

The move “not only demonstrates that the new administration will take its responsibilities to oversee broadband internet access more serious, it weakens any case that the ISPs suing California can make,” he told MarketWatch.

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