California’s net neutrality law won’t take effect in January, if it ever does

27 October 2018 by Steve Blum
, , ,

It will be a long time before California’s new network neutrality law will be enforced, if it ever is. California attorney general Xavier Becerra cut a deal yesterday with the Trump administration and lobbyists who front for a long list of telecoms companies, including AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast and Frontier Communications. In return for their pledge not to pursue their court case against the law, Becerra agreed not to enforce the new law until a separate legal challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal its own net neutrality rules has worked its way through the system and, after that, until the Sacramento court hearing the case against senate bill 822 decides whether or not to block it.

The reason given was that all involved – California, the federal justice department and telecoms companies – wanted “to avoid a waste of judicial and [their own] resources”.

That could take years. The District of Columbia appeals court hearing the case against the FCC is scheduled to hear oral arguments in February, with the expectation that a decision would come later on in 2019. If – when – that decision is appealed to the federal supreme court, SB 822 would stay on ice until a final-final ruling is issued. That could take a while. As a point of reference, the legal challenge to the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules (that were scrapped in 2017) has been going on for three and a half years, with no end in sight.

Becerra also promised “not to not take any action to enforce” the law, “including through participation in any private action seeking to enforce senate bill 822”. Which implies that private lawsuits are still possible, as allowed by the Californian consumer rights law that SB 822 was grafted onto. Even if that were true, though, I doubt private lawsuits will get very far until the legal cloud over SB 822 is lifted.