New California Legislation Aims to Strengthen Net Neutrality

After California state senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill in May to the state assembly to ensure net neutrality, a committee voted to remove protections, an action that some said would allow broadband suppliers to throttle applications. Now those protections are being reinstated. Assembly member Miguel Santiago who proposed the changes to the bill passed last month, and Wiener came to an agreement on a new version of the bill that will make it the strongest net neutrality protection in the United States.

Wired reports that, according to a fact sheet distributed by Wiener, Santiago and state senator Kevin de León, “the latest version of the bill restores provisions that prevent broadband providers from exempting some services from customers’ data caps, and ban providers from charging websites ‘access fees’ to reach customers on a network or blocking or throttling content as it enters their networks from other networks.”

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The original bill “was in some ways more robust than the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality protections repealed last month,” including a provision that bans broadband suppliers from exempting services they own from customers’ data limits. That means if the bill passes in its current form, “AT&T would no longer be allowed to exempt its DirecTV Now video streaming service from its mobile users’ data allotments.”

Santiago, who chairs the Committee on Communications and Conveyance, removed provisions last month to bring “the bill in line with the Obama-era net neutrality protections.” In doing so, however, he actually made the potential law weaker.

Advocacy groups such as Fight for the Future started “a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a billboard targeting the assembly member in his Los Angeles district.” Its deputy director Evan Greer said the group appreciates Santiago’s “change of heart.”

“This should be a lesson to other lawmakers: don’t mess with net neutrality unless you’re prepared to feel your constituents’ wrath,” he continued.

The bill’s latest version still needs approval of both houses of the California Legislature and the signature of Governor Jerry Brown. If passed, it may face a legal challenge from the FCC, “which prohibited states from adopting their own net neutrality protections when it repealed the national net neutrality rules.” Telecommunications group USTelecom has already said it will challenge state-level net neutrality rules.