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FCC chair cheers on DOJ lawsuit against Calif. net neutrality law

FCC chair cheers on DOJ lawsuit against Calif. net neutrality law
© Greg Nash

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is cheering the Justice Department’s decision to sue California for passing its own net neutrality law after his agency repealed the Obama-era federal regulations.

The Trump administration filed its lawsuit shortly after the bill was signed into law on Sunday, arguing that the state was attempting to subvert a federal “deregulatory approach” to the internet.

“I’m pleased the Department of Justice has filed this suit,” Pai said in a statement. “The Internet is inherently an interstate information service. As such, only the federal government can set policy in this area.”

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The FCC rules that Pai repealed last year banned internet service providers from blocking or throttling certain websites and from creating paid internet fast lanes. California’s SB-822 reinstated those protections for its residents and went a step further by cracking down on a practice called zero-rating, where a provider makes it so certain services aren’t counted against a consumer’s data limit.

The bill prohibits internet and wireless providers from zero-rating their own services, which net neutrality supporters believe stifles competition. But Pai and the broadband industry argue that outlawing the practice robs consumers of free data.

“They have proven enormously popular in the marketplace, especially among lower-income Americans,” Pai said in his statement on Sunday.

The Republican FCC chair stepped up his attack on Monday, telling reporters that arguments from states hoping to pass their own rules are “completely baseless” and predicting that the administration is on strong ground legally, according to Reuters.