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 (chaired at that time 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. On October 1, 2019, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with the County that the FCC had violated the law by failing to consider how its repeal of the net neutrality rules would impact public safety. Although it upheld the FCC’s repeal, it directed the agency to consider the public safety implications of its decision. On April 20, 2020, the County filed a comment explaining to the FCC why the repeal threatens public safety and urging it to reinstate the net neutrality rules. On October 27, 2020, the FCC announced that, despite the risks to public safety, it would not reconsider its repeal of the net neutrality rules. On February 8, 2021, the County petitioned the FCC (now chaired by Biden appointee Jessica Rosenworcel) to reconsider its October 2020 decision and to return to the net neutrality rules in order to protect public safety.
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)), including by filing an Amicus Brief in the Ninth Circuit supporting SB 822, and opposed AB 1366 (Gonzalez), which would have continued to block internet-based phone regulation in California.
- County of Santa Clara's Comment to the FCC Opposing Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules (Dec. 6, 2017)
- County Press Statement - County of Santa Clara to Challenge Trump Administration's Repeal of Net Neutrality Protections (Dec. 17, 2017)
- County Press Statement - Verizon Threatens Public Safety with Throttling, Calls It a "Customer Support Mistake" (Aug. 22, 2018)
- County of Santa Clara’s Opposition to AB 1366 (June 27, 2019)
- Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District’s Opposition to AB 1366 (June 26, 2019)
- County of Santa Clara’s Comment to the FCC (Apr. 20, 2020)
- County Press Statement - Statement from Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams on Comments Filed Today with the FCC Regarding the Public Safety Implications of the Net Neutrality Rollback (Apr. 20, 2020)
- County of Santa Clara's Petition for Reconsideration of the FCC's Order on Remand (Feb. 8, 2021)
- Statement from Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams on Petition Filed Today with the FCC Seeking Reconsideration of Net Neutrality Rollback (Feb. 8, 2021)
- County of Santa Clara’s Amicus Brief on Behalf of Local Governments in Support of S.B. 822 (May 11, 2021)