The federal justice department will work side by side with telecom industry lobbyists to block California’s new network neutrality law. The two challenges to senate bill 822, filed shortly after it was signed into law by California governor Jerry Brown, will be taken up as a package by a federal judge in Sacramento. For now, the two cases will be technically separate, but will be argued and decided together.
Judge John Mendez set a hearing for 28 November 2018 to decide if he’ll issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent SB 822 from taking effect in January. AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast and Frontier Communications, among others, claim they “will suffer immediate and irreparable harm” if it’s enforced before the core issues are argued and, eventually decided, next year.
In theory, it shouldn’t have much effect, if any, on California’s monopoly wireline broadband providers – they claimed to be honoring net neutrality principles during their full throated – deep pocketed – attacks on SB 822. The reality is likely different. The ferocity of the disinformation campaign they waged might lead you to believe they have something to fear. Mobile carriers certainly have immediate worries: SB 822 bans zero rating, which is common practice on the wireless side of things.
Mendez gave the California attorney general’s office an extra week to answer the two challenges. It has to file a single response by 26 October 2016. Then the federal justice department and the telco and cable front organisations have two weeks to prepare their rebuttals.
The door is also open for other interested parties to jump into the case. Anyone wanting to offer facts or arguments for or against California’s net neutrality law can request permission from the judge and file their briefs at the same time.
The schedule approved by Mendez gives any third party – an amicus curiae – that wants to support the Trump administration’s and telecom industry’s cases until next Friday, 19 October 2019, to file their paperwork. Those wanting to add their weight to California’s defence have until 2 November 2018.