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California agrees to put its new net neutrality law temporarily on hold

California agrees to put its new net neutrality law temporarily on hold
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, shown in August, agreed Friday to put the state's new net neutrality law on hold until after a decision by a federal appeals court on whether the Trump administration acted lawfully in ending regulation of internet providers. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra agreed Friday to put the state’s new net neutrality law on hold until a federal appeals court decides whether the Trump administration acted lawfully last year when it ended regulation of internet providers.

California’s law, the broadest in the nation, would restore Obama-era rules designed to treat all data on the internet equally. Providers could not block or slow data or favor sites that pay broadband companies more for priority.

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The Trump administration and the broadband industry sued California this month to block the law, which was supposed to take effect in January.

The administration also asked that the law at least be put on hold until a federal appeals court in Washington decides whether ending net neutrality was lawful.

In the case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel is weighing a challenge brought by public interest groups, companies and 32 states, including California, against the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end net neutrality.

If the D.C. appeals court decides the FCC acted arbitrarily and capriciously, net neutrality protections could return nationally. The federal appeals court also is expected to decide whether states can issue regulations of their own.

A decision is expected next year.

“It’s disappointing that the law won’t go into effect in January, but we're hopeful that the D.C. circuit will vacate the FCC’s unlawful repeal so we can return to a framework that ensured the internet remained open to everyone,” said Kati Phillips, a spokeswoman for Common Cause.

The government watchdog group has sided with the states in the D.C. case and supports the California law. Phillips said all the parties to the case have agreed to a stay.

“Today’s stay represents a pause in our litigation to guarantee we can argue the defense of California’s net neutrality on behalf of our 40 million people,” a spokesperson for Becerra said.

Becerra said in a statement that his office intends to “vigorously defend” the law.

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