Net neutrality rules prohibit broadband internet service providers from discriminating against lawful internet traffic, generally by blocking it or slowing it down, for financial or other reasons. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued formal rules protecting net neutrality. These rules offered critical protections for County residents, start-ups, small and large business, and County government.
The rules are critical, because ISPs will act in their economic interests, even when public safety is on the line. As the County told the Court, Verizon even throttled the connection of a County Fire emergency response vehicle during the worst wildfire in California history.
The County has made substantial investments in systems that provide critical health, welfare, and safety services over the Internet, and a reversal of the FCC's net neutrality rules threatens the ability of County residents to access those and other critical web-based services. On December 14, 2017, the FCC (now chaired by Trump appointee Ajit Pai), announced its decision to reverse course and eliminate its net neutrality rules. On February 22, 2018, immediately after the publication of the decision, the County filed a lawsuit challenging the decision to repeal the net neutrality rules. The County filed its Opening Brief in the case on August 20, 2018 and its Reply Brief on November 16, 2018, and presented oral argument to the court on February 1, 2019.
The County has also supported other efforts to advance net neutrality principles. It supported the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 (SB 822 (Wiener)) and opposes AB 1366 (Gonzalez), which would continue to block internet-based phone regulation in California.