California Tries To Save The Internet, Jeff Sessions Sues It
On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown shoved a giant middle finger in the face of major telecom companies when he signed a law that adopts the strictest net neutrality laws in the country. Trump's ultra conservative DOJ promptly responded with a lawsuit that claims states don't have rights. As usual, the Trump administration is sticking up for the super rich little guys at the top corporate food chain.
California really chapped the ass of Trump administration this time because its law goes further than any previous net neutrality legislation, including the rescinded
2015 Obama rules. Under the new law signed by Gov. Brown, ISPs must treat all internet traffic equally, they can't throttle data speeds, set data caps, or provide fast-lanes for certain apps or websites. While dozens of states have already proposed or passed similar legislation, no other state has balls as big as Gov. Brown. He has repeatedly pissed all over Trump's leg and corporate America with legislation ranging from sanctuary cities to climate change. Obviously this means #HesRunning.
The telecom industry has fought hard to kill net neutrality legislation. In September ISPs encouraged their own employees to pressure Gov. Brown to veto the bill while executives from Comcast and ATT lobbied against its signing. But the bill was given a massive boost when Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden declared Verizon had been throttling the data of firefighters battling the massive Mendocino Complex Fire. As part of an addendum by 22 state attorneys general trying to reinstate the 2015 Obama-era rules, Bowden revealed Verizon limited the firefighters ability to "provide crisis-response and essential emergency services" after it began throttling them. It was only after emails became public that Verizon apologized for putting profits ahead of public safety.
"Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan, said Bowden."
Immediately after Gov. Brown signed the law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrapped himself in an American flag, slapped California with a lawsuit, and issued a bitchy statement saying, "The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order." In a separate statement, Trump's corporate-controlled FCC chair Ajit Pai complained that "only the federal government can set policy" on the internet, and that California's laws were unfair because they make it illegal for ISPs to charge ransom payments for internet access.
Trumpland's argument rests on the Constitution's Interstate Commerce and Supremacy Clauses. A provision in the 2018 net neutrality repeal says states can't make their own net neutrality laws, and the DOJ says California exceeded its authority when it passed its own law. They also argue that the Internet facilitates interstate commerce, which states also have no authority to regulate. Legal nerds find both of these plausible, but California says the administration already ceded its authority when it killed net neutrality. They contend the administration can't change its mind just because California figured out how to drive a dump truck through a loophole in the series of tubes.
Since it takes FOREVER to move anything through the court systems (except Brett Kavanaugh), it's far more likely that Congress does something first. Net neutrality has bipartisan support from an overwhelming majority of people who aren't buried in their own ass. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has already suggested that California's law could serve as a model for future legislation. It's also possible Chairman Pai gets investigated for falsely claiming the FCC was hacked during the 2017 net neutrality commenting period. So don't be surprised if #SaveTheInternet creeps into your Twitter feed, or the 2018 elections.
[ WaPo / Wired / Politico / DOJ]
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Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.