By Brian Fung, The Washington Post
The Justice Department has struck a temporary agreement with California officials not to move forward with a lawsuit challenging the states new net neutrality law, delaying a pivotal legal battle over the future of the Internet.
Under the proposed deal struck Friday between federal and state officials, and with telecom industry advocates, the Justice Department will postpone its litigation against California until a separate case directly involving the Federal Communications Commission runs its course, according to court filings. The agreement must be approved by a judge.
As part of the deal, California officials have agreed not to enforce their new rules on broadband providers when the state law – viewed by many as the nations toughest – officially takes effect on Jan. 1.
Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month, the law prohibits companies such as AT&T and Comcast from blocking or slowing down online content, and makes it illegal for them to demand special fees from websites and apps.
The accord highlights the complexity of the legal tussle surrounding net neutrality, as well as the sky-high stakes tied to a case brought by consumer advocates and digital rights groups in Washington appealing the FCCs decision last year to rescind its own net neutrality rules.
That case confronts some of the same issues as the one now facing California, such as whether the FCCs new, lighter approach to net neutrality takes precedence over state laws. A ruling on that front by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit could have major ramifications for the Justice Departments California suit.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has alleged that Californias law violates the constitution by circumventing the FCCs deregulatory order.
But if the D.C. Circuit rejects the FCCs 2017 rule change under agency chairman Ajit Pai, it could open new questions about how far telecom regulators may go in preempting states such as California.