Apr 22, 2022
Open internet defenders cheered this week after a federal appeals court rejected an industry-backed petition to block enforcement of California's net neutrality law.
Internet service providers (ISPs) wanted a hearing before all the judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after a three-judge panel of that court in January upheld that the law could go into effect.
"No judges on the appeals court thought the broadband industry's petition for a rehearing was even worth voting on," as ArsTechnicadescribed the appeals court decision.
California's SB 822, described as the "gold standard net neutrality law," was approved in 2018 after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), then led by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, voted to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules.
Among those praising the appeals court's decison was FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who declared: "This is big. Because when the FCC rolled back its open internet policies, states stepped in. I support net neutrality and we need once again to make it the law of the land."
John Bergmayer, legal director at Public Knowledge--one of the groups that filed an amicus brief in support of California's law--similarly applauded the decision.
"As expected," he said, "the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected yet another attempt by internet service providers to overturn California's strong net neutrality law. The California net neutrality law is now undefeated in court after four attempts to eliminate it."
"Net neutrality protections nationally continue to be common sense and popular with the public among all ideologies," Bergmayer said, calling it "good news that Californians will continue to enjoy this important consumer protection, and we look forward to a full Federal Communications Commission restoring net neutrality nationwide."
The appeals court ruling came as progressives urged the U.S. Senate to confirm Gigi Sohn, President Joe Biden's nominee to fill the empty seat on the FCC.
Longtime net neutrality defender Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called the appeals court decision "a win in our fight for net neutrality, but all states deserve a free and open internet."
"We need Gigi Sohn... confirmed ASAP to advance access, affordability, and equity in our digital future," said Markey.
\u201c@POTUS @FCC @NewYorker @JGo4Justice Do you want to close the #DigitalDivide? Restore #NetNeutrality? Ensure that our nation has strong local broadcasting and media diversity?\n\nUrge your senators to confirm Sohn. \n\nSIGN: https://t.co/Dh1UuHxOMM\u201d— Free Press (@Free Press) 1650634863
But Sohn's nomination, as Free Press' Jessica J. Gonzalez explained this week, has been thwarted.
"Sohn has faced an ugly and coordinated right-wing media smear campaign, which has been on full display in the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal and on Fox News, which are both owned by Rupert Murdoch," she wrote. "This campaign has also played out in the Senate, where Sohn faced not one but two confirmation hearings, which is unusual for the confirmation of an FCC commissioner. And at every turn a number of Republican senators have obstructed progress on Sohn's confirmation."
"The Senate must confirm Gigi Sohn without further delay," Gonzalez said. "The FCC has a lot of work to do, and a dwindling number of days to do so. Senate Democrats cannot allow these democracy-subverting tactics to succeed."
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