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 Rally organizers carry away props following a protest outside the Federal Communication Commission building against the end of net neutralityrules December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Rally organizers carry away props following a protest outside the Federal Communications Commission building against the end of net neutrality rules December 14, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Open Internet Victory as Telecom Giants Give Up Net Neutrality Fight in California

Despite the good development, said one advocate, "the effort to enact net neutrality rules nationwide must continue."

Andrea Germanos

Associations representing the telecommunications industry on Wednesday dropped their legal fight to block California's "gold standard" net neutrality law following a string of losses in federal courts.

"With this victory, we've secured a free and open internet for California's 40 million residents once and for all."

The stipulation of dismissal was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, bringing to an end a yearslong challenge from major companies including AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to Senate Bill 822.

Passed in 2018 despite massive spending by the telecommunications industry, the state-level bill restored the Obama-era net neutrality protections repealed by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission in 2017.

Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, called the development a "huge win for digital rights and the open web."

"Following multiple defeats in court, internet service providers have abandoned this effort to block enforcement of California's net neutrality law," said state Attorney General Rob Bonta. "With this victory, we've secured a free and open internet for California's 40 million residents once and for all."

In a statement calling the lawsuit's withdrawal "a historic win for Californians and the open internet," Barbara van Schewick, professor of law at Stanford University and director of its law school's Center for Internet and Society, referenced the industry groups' court losses, the latest of which occurred last month when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously rejected the ISPs' request for a hearing by all the judges on the court.

"After losing three times in federal court," said van Schewick, "the ISPs have finally realized that they can't overturn California's net neutrality law and that they should just stop trying."

"Californians are protected by the best state net neutrality law in the country," she added, and that "thanks to the law's lead author, Sen. Scott Wiener, who fought tenaciously on its behalf, California's law restores all the crucial protections the Trump FCC abolished in 2017 and is a model bill for other states.”

John Bergmayer, legal director at Public Knowledge, also welcomed the lawsuit's withdrawal as "great news."

However, he added, "the effort to enact net neutrality rules nationwide must continue," which means "the Senate must act to ensure we have a full Federal Communications Commission that can restore these important consumer protections for all Americans."

Other open internet defenders have recently urged Senate confirmation of President Joe Biden's nominee to fill the empty and tie-breaking seat on the FCC, Gigi Sohn.

The founder of Public Knowledge and a strong net neutrality defender, Sohn has faced what her advocates call a telecommunications-backed "dishonest astroturf campaign" to thwart her confirmation.

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