California signed new net neutrality laws over the weekend, months after the FCC reversed federal net neutrality rules. The media industry, on both the content and distribution sides, reacted, while Netflix, once a strident defender of net neutrality, stayed quiet.
California’s new rules, which were signed into law on Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown, prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing content or applications, or from charging fees to internet companies for faster access to customers.
The Justice Department wasted little time in filing a lawsuit against California, alleging that interstate communications should be regulated by the federal government and not on the state level.
The two actions have drawn responses from several interested parties but not Netflix this time around. A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment on the new laws or the DOJ’s lawsuit.
This stands somewhat in contrast to earlier this year, when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took a rather relaxed stance in response to the FCC rolling back the net neutrality rules. At the time, Hastings said that undoing the official rules wouldn’t have much of an effect since net neutrality had already become a “consumer expectation.”
“I would say the net neutrality advocates have won the day, in terms of those expectations, so we don’t see any changes of that in the U.S. or other countries,” said Hastings, according to Variety.
While Netflix is staying out of the conversation for now, many others in the media industry have weighed in. The Writers Guild of America West applauded California and Governor Brown for stepping in after the federal government “fails to protect its citizens.”
“Once enacted, this landmark net neutrality legislation will serve as a model for states nationwide to follow. The Internet today is where we connect, where we organize and speak freely, and where we can choose what content we consume. With increasing attacks on our First Amendment rights and widespread corporate concentration, preserving an open Internet free from ISP interference is more important now than ever,” the group said in a statement.
AT&T, which recently finalized its acquisition of Time Warner (now named WarnerMedia), said it’s “unequivocally committed” to giving consumers an “open and transparent internet, free of gatekeepers.”
“That is why we repeatedly have encouraged the U.S. Congress to end the back and forth and confusion surrounding open internet protections once and for all by writing a uniform, national law that protects all American consumers, innovation and investment by treating all internet platforms equally. Simply put, state-by-state regulation in this area is insufficient and unworkable because the internet is a global network of networks that enables consumers to access and use information, content and services without regard to state, and even national, boundaries. Accordingly, we support the Justice Department’s lawsuit to preempt the California statute,” said Joan Marsh, AT&T’s executive vice president of regulatory and state external affairs, in a statement.