The United States Justice Department has sued California to force it to abandon a law to protect “net neutrality” aimed at requiring all online data to be treated equally.
Rules governing online access have undergone numerous court challenges and regulatory moves over the past decade, and in December the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to reverse a 2015 order which established net neutrality.
California Governor Jerry Brown, on Sunday, signed a law that re-established net neutrality in his state.
The law also marks the latest challenge between Brown’s administration and President Donald Trump’s Republicans, who have already clashed over environmental and immigration regulations.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.
“We are confident that we will prevail in this case — because the facts are on our side.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai described California’s law as illegal and bad for consumers.
He has previously argued that ending net neutrality would give the private sector “greater incentives to invest” in the new generation of super-fast 5G wireless networks.
Net neutrality prohibits the blocking of sites or services for competitive reasons, and bans “fast” and “slow” lanes for different kinds of online traffic.
Internet giants Amazon, Facebook and Google are among the supporters of net neutrality.