Net Neutrality Faces Big Test in CA Legislature Today

Advocates of restoring net neutrality warn that industry lobbyists have been asking lawmakers to gut key provisions of California's net-neutrality bills. Photo Credit: Camilo Sanches

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today is a crucial battle in the fight to restore net neutrality, as two bills are heard in key committees in the California State Assembly.

Under President Donald Trump, the Federal Communications Commission reversed Obama-era net-neutrality rules, a repeal that took effect last week. Senate Bill 822 would once again make it illegal for internet service providers doing business in California to profit by speeding up, slowing down or blocking content online.

Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the ISPs won’t be able to resist charging more for faster speeds or for access to popular websites.

“While the ISPs will not do something today, in the coming months and over the years, they’ll start rolling out paid prioritization agreements, or some sort of exclusivity, in exchange for money,” he said. “Or, they’ll start treating their own content in a much more favorable way.”

SB 822 also would ban “zero rating,” which is when companies such as AT&T and Comcast try to make certain sites more attractive by allowing people to visit them without using up mobile data. The second bill, SB 460, would give the state attorney general more oversight power.

Opponents of net neutrality have said the rules were onerous and unnecessary.

Falcon said the fight for net neutrality is operating on multiple fronts.

“The fight is happening in Congress. There’s a bill to reverse the FCC right now in the House of Representatives,” he said. “The fight’s happening in the courts; there’s federal litigation right now. And the fight is happening in the states – the states can pass interim protections until the federal rule is restored. I think it’s a matter of when, not a matter of if.”

Lawmakers in Oregon, Vermont and Washington state have passed net-neutrality legislation. Governors in six other states have signed executive orders to restore net neutrality, including Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The text of SB 822 is online here. The text of SB 460 is here.