California’s net neutrality amigos ride into action tomorrow

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The California legislature is back in session tomorrow, following a month long summer break. The fires ravaging California will certainly be top of mind for everyone, but broadband bills remain on the table. Network neutrality is the big issue, and activists are certain to keep the pressure on to pass effective legislation.

Senate bills 822 and 460 are paired up, and together will reinstate the 2015 Obama era net neutrality rules scrapped late last year by the Trump administration’s republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission. And go a bit further.

If the deal reached in the rush to get out of town last month holds together.

SB 822 is the main event. It bans blocking, throttling and paid prioritisation – as did the 2015 rules – and adds zero rating to the list of forbidden practices. Or at least it did until the industry-friendly assembly communications and conveyances committee got its hands on it. Chair Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles), with close support from his wingmen, assemblymen Eduardo Garcia (D -Imperial) and Evan Low (D – Santa Clara), did the bidding of AT&T, Frontier Communications, Comcast, Charter Communications and others, and eviscerated SB 822.

The outcry from activists and democratic leadership – net neutrality is a flagship issue for the party, particularly in Washington, D.C. – was intense. Garcia backed down at a capitol press conference, and promised to work with senators Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) and Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), the authors of SB 822 and SB 460 respectively, to restore the bills to their former glory.

If all goes to plan, we should see revised drafts of both bills tomorrow or shortly thereafter. Wiener is leading the net neutrality charge and said as much at the press conference. The question will be whether the new text matches the stringent language of the original versions. With platoons of lobbyists for big telecoms companies dug in for a fight, we can take nothing for granted.