Denounced as a clear effort to appease the telecom giants who have been the main drivers behind destroying the egalitarian principles that insulate the internet from corporate control, the U.S. Department of Justice didn't even wait until morning to launch a federal lawsuit against the state of California after Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday evening signed into a far-reaching net neutrality bill.
In a late-night statement supporting the DOJ lawsuit, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claimed the state-level effort was "illegal" and said the GOP-controlled commission under his command would assist in the court challenge.
While calling the bill signed into law "a significant milestone in the effort to restore essential communications rights for everyone in America," Matt Wood, from the Free Press Action Fund, said the move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions—and backed by Pai—makes clear the Republican Party's ongoing intentions to make sure companies like Verizon and Comcast get what they want.
FCC Chairman @AjitPaiFCC and the Justice Department couldn't even wait until Monday — once California's governor signed tough #NetNeutrality rules into law, they immediately filed suit to block them. https://t.co/o3FTULO08s
— Free Press (@freepress) October 1, 2018
"The Trump administration's decision to sue the state of California just for stepping in to fill the void created when Ajit Pai wrongly took away these congressionally granted rights is unfortunate and hypocritical in the extreme," Woods stated. "As the preemption suit moves forward, cable and phone lobbyists will wail about how they can’t comply with a patchwork of different state laws prohibiting broadband providers from unreasonably discriminating against internet users’ basic rights. This complaint is completely absurd given that the same lawyers and lobbyists from AT&T and Comcast were the chief culprits in destroying the blanket federal protections on the books."
Offering an opposing view from within the FCC, Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel countered Pai's support for the lawsuit by applauding California for its effort.
"A hefty thank you to the Golden State for your effort to get right what the FCC got wrong when it wiped out our open internet protections late last year," Rosenworcel said in a statement on Monday. "The FCC's misguided decision to roll back net neutrality gave broadband providers the green light to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. That's why the California law is a welcome development—it's good for consumers, good for businesses, and good for anyone who connects and creates online."
Jeff Sessions calls the California #NetNeutrality law "extreme" and "illegal," which is how you know it's "awesome."
— Evan Greer (@evan_greer) October 1, 2018
While Trump's DOJ had chosen the courts as the next avenue to undermine online protections, Rosenworcel said the "regrettable" decision only "confirms that Washington is not listening to the American people."