California just passed the toughest state-level net neutrality law in the nation, and within hours, the Department of Justice sued the state to block the law from going into effect. It’s the start of a new chapter in the fight for net neutrality, as the federal government works hand in hand with the telecom industry to stop a wave of state-level net neutrality protections.
But legal experts told The Verge that the effort to remove states from the consumer protection equation rests on shaky legal ground and may only buy the telecom sector time rather than rolling back the law completely.
Still, reestablishing net neutrality in California is just a small step toward protecting the nation at large. More than half the states in the nation are considering new state net neutrality laws, privacy laws, and executive orders to fill the void and protect consumers from the numerous side effects of the glaringly obvious lack of competition in American broadband.
That said, consumers still face an ocean of discordant state-level protections instead of comprehensive federal guidelines. As a result, some states might craft terrible laws or no laws at all, leaving consumers with not only no meaningful broadband competition, but little recourse when those regional monopolies and duopolies misbehave (which they do, often). Meanwhile, consumers in other states will enjoy comprehensive protections that go further than the original FCC rules they are intended to replace.
It’s a problem of the industry’s own making — a direct result of the multiyear, unrelenting assault on federal consumer protections — and the fight is only getting started.