California’s net neutrality crusade is back on track

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Senators Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) and Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), and assemblymen Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) and Rob Bonta (D – Alameda) lined up at a capitol press conference yesterday to announce that all was forgiven: strong net neutrality language would be restored to senate bill 822 and SB 460 would be raised from the dead.

What seemed to unite the four was shared democratic party opposition to the Trump administration and a desire to win federal congressional seats away from republicans in November.

Wiener said during the press conference that the bill would be “restructured”, but all the “key protections” would be in it. He expanded on that pledge in a written statement…

Under this agreement, SB 822 will contain strong net neutrality protections and prohibit blocking websites, speeding up or slowing down websites or whole classes of applications such as video, and charging websites for access to an ISP’s subscribers or for fast lanes to those subscribers. ISPs will also be prohibited from circumventing these protections at the point where data enters their networks and from charging access fees to reach ISP customers. SB 822 will also ban ISPs from violating net neutrality by not counting the content and websites they own against subscribers’ data caps. This kind of abusive and anti-competitive “zero rating”, which leads to lower data caps for everyone, would be prohibited, while “zero-rating” plans that don’t harm consumers are not banned.

SB 460 will be amended to focus on requiring ISPs that enter into state contracts adhere to net neutrality principles. This provision ensures that public entities only expend taxpayer funds on contracts with ISPs that comply with California’s comprehensive net neutrality protections.

Wiener credited Bonta with bringing the sides together. Bonta refused to go along when Santiago gutted SB 822 in a committee hearing last month. In the past, he’s championed local broadband projects, in contrast to Santiago’s track record as an AT&T lap dog.

With the legislature on summer vacation, the text of what is said to be a restored bill won’t be filed until 6 August 2018. It needs to be read carefully and closely – as Wiener noted as he closed, the game isn’t over. “The telecom and cable companies, they fight hard, they are effective and we are confident they are going to oppose this to the end”, he cautioned.