California is potentially weeks away from signing into law the strictest net neutrality regulations in the country. Telecoms, having bought the FCC, are freaking out because they are now facing considerably more comprehensive consumer protections in California than they were before they were able to get former Verizon lawyer and current telecom shill FCC chair Ajit Pai to let them write all of the rules—or not, as the case may be. On Friday, Pai was speaking to folks at the Maine Heritage Policy Center when he had this to say about California:
Of course, those who demand greater government control of the Internet haven’t given up. Their latest tactic is pushing state governments to regulate the Internet. The most egregious example of this comes from California. Last month, the California state legislature passed a radical, anti-consumer Internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015. In a way, I can understand how they succumbed to the temptation to regulate. After all, I suppose a broadband pipe might look to some like a plastic straw.
The broader problem is that California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country. After all, broadband is an interstate service; Internet traffic doesn’t recognize state lines. It follows that only the federal government can set regulatory policy in this area. For if individual states like California regulate the Internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.
He’s right. It potentially will make other states sit up and say, Yeah, I don’t want to continue to get screwed by telecoms with terrible customer service and virtual monopolies. Pai also needed to keep up the illusion that he’s still some kind of a law mind, and not simply a living marionette, so he threw this bit of mythology in.
Among other reasons, this is why efforts like California’s are illegal. In fact, just last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reaffirmed the well-established law that state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law. Last December, the FCC made clear that broadband is just such an information service.