The Department of Justice has sued the state of California for passing a Net Neutrality law that goes against the federal administration’s policy of deregulating the Internet. The lawsuit argues that the new law places burdensome regulations on the Internet and is anti-consumer in nature.
The Net Neutrality law
The Net Neutrality bill was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown and will prohibit Internet service providers in the state from charging websites like Netflix or Google, which use up a large percentage of bandwidth, a fee to speed up connections. In addition, the law also makes the “zero rating” scheme of the ISPs illegal. The zero rating scheme allowed an ISP to exclude their own apps and services from a customer’s data plan, effectively providing it for free while charging similar apps and services from competitors.
The Federal administration has come down heavily against the law, with the Justice Department suing the state of California immediately after passage of the bill, SB 822. The FCC had passed an order in January 2018 that repealed a 2015 decision that had prevented ISPs from prioritizing traffic in exchange for a fee. The Justice Department argues in the complaint that the 2018 FCC order effectively preempts states from imposing any rules that the FCC itself had repealed.
“California, however, seeks to second-guess the Federal Government’s regulatory approach by enacting SB-822. Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does. Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy,” ZD Net quotes the complaint.
Why the Net Neutrality law is a bad idea
While Net Neutrality supporters claim that banning zero rating schemes and preventing Internet companies from being charged a higher fee for faster connections will benefit the public by keeping the Internet equal for all, the truth is that California’s law actually goes against the interests of the customers.
By banning the zero rating schemes of the ISPs, California has effectively blocked its residents from accessing as much free content on the Internet as possible without having to worry about data limits. The Epoch Times quotes Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai as saying that “not only is California’s Internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers. The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits.”
Allowing ISPs to charge big companies like Netflix and Google a higher fee for faster connections is also beneficial. It won’t lead to a monopoly, like the proponents claim, where ISPs dictate how fast users are able to access a particular site. Instead, it will create a wide range of Internet markets that cater to different segments of customers. While some customers may be happy paying for a service that speeds up their favorite websites like Netflix and offers a slower speed for the rest of the Internet, other customers will choose ISPs that provide them fast access to every website.
Net Neutrality, in fact, stands against the very concept of a neutral Internet. The wording is misleading. Going by the meaning of “Net Neutrality,” one would assume a free market, while, in fact, Net Neutrality supporters actually want more government control over the Internet.
“What is needed is not neutrality, but differentiated choices. With enough choices for Internet access, there would be no need for net neutrality rules. The market will ensure that Internet service providers offer the options that customers demand,” Jeffrey Dorfman, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia, writes in a Forbes article. In effect, the needs of every kind of customer will be accommodated by keeping the ISPs deregulated as the Trump administration wants. But the California bill goes against this very idea.