California Breaks the Internet

from The Wall Street Journal,

Sacramento wants to regulate the web nationwide.

California Democrats like to imagine that they run all of America, and thank heavens they don’t. The progressive imperialists are now trying to regulate digital commerce nationwide under Sacramento rules, and the good news is that the Justice Department is pushing back to protect the free flow of information and the Constitution’s separation of powers. Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed “net neutrality” legislation reinstating the late Obama-era rules that the Federal Communications Commission reversed last year. Providers are prohibited from throttling, blocking or charging to prioritize content. California’s law goes even further than the Obama rules by banning “zero-rating” plans that exempt certain apps from consumer data limits.

The Justice Department immediately sued to enjoin the legislation, and telecom companies have followed. California’s rules patently violate the Constitution’s Supremacy and Commerce Clauses, and if allowed to stand would break the Internet. Prior to 2015 the FCC classified broadband as an “information service.” Broadband providers don’t censor content, but they need to control the flow of content in order to manage growing traffic congestion. But Obama FCC chairman Tom Wheeler decided to restrict broadband providers’ ability to manage traffic on their networks by subjecting them to utility-style regulations, and thus to more political control. In any other industry customers can pay a higher price for faster delivery. But Mr. Wheeler’s rules prohibited broadband providers from charging data hogs like Netflix or Facebook more for better performance. This would result in less efficient networks, slower speeds for all content and less broadband investment. Last year the Trump FCC scrapped the Obama rules and substituted a requirement that broadband providers disclose their network management practices.

California has told the FCC to take a hike. Its legislature asserts that the state can use its police powers to protect the “neutrality” of the internet. But its law isn’t necessary to protect public welfare and could harm consumers. Ask the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which along with other low-income and minority groups opposed the law.

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