Jerry Brown net neutrality law sparks lawsuit from feds

California State Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson attends the Dinner For Equality event on Feb. 25 2016 in Beverly Hills

California governor Jerry Brown recently signed net neutrality legislation which was set to come into effect on 1 January.

Up against a midnight deadline, Brown, a Democrat, signed a bill Sunday that makes the Obama-era net neutrality protections state law.

The FCC has said instead that other agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, should take a more active role in protecting the public from violations of net neutrality.

According to the LA Times, California state AG Xavier Bacerra said the state is prepared to defend its new law, and that it would need additional funding and staff to implement the regulations. The law also prohibits carriers from demanding special new fees from websites, and it bars Internet providers from selectively exempting their preferred apps from customer data caps.

As Gizmodo reports, the bill-now the most far-reaching of its kind and considered the "gold standard" for state-level protections-"prohibits ISPs from intentionally congesting or degrading web traffic for the objective of imposing unreasonable fees on companies that connect users on ISP networks to other parts of the web, also known as interconnection".

But the U.S. Department of Justice wants to stop the law in its tracks, arguing that it creates burdensome, anti-consumer requirements that go against the federal government's approach of deregulating the Internet.

The bill was passed by the California state legislature in August and has been rebuked by the FCC and some companies, like USTelecom, which owns AT&T and Verizon.

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"Courts have consistently held that when the federal government lacks authority to regulate, it can not preempt states from regulating", said Andrew Schwartzman, a lecturer in public interest law at Georgetown University.

Rules governing online access have undergone numerous court challenges and regulatory moves over the past decade, and in December the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to reverse a 2015 order which established net neutrality.

That action led to a backlash in a number of states, which have sought to pass their own rules of the road for internet service.

The department filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging the new piece of legislation is "unlawful and anti-consumer". He doubled down on calling California's net neutrality regulation illegal, adding that "it also hurts consumers".

Barbara van Schewick, a law professor at Stanford University and an advocate for tougher net neutrality policies, agreed.

"Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce-the federal government does".

Other organizations opposed California taking net neutrality into its own hands, including Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of the U.S. Telecom Association.

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