A California network neutrality revival bill got the blessing of California senate leaders, and now heads to a floor vote. Senate bill 822, authored by Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco), was endorsed by the senate appropriations committee on a pro forma party line vote on Friday. It would add blocking, ,throttling, paid prioritisation and zero rating to the list of unfair practices banned by California consumer protection law. It would also require state and local agencies in California to buy Internet service only from providers who abide by net neutrality principles.
Bills that spend money or add costs have to be reviewed by fiscal committees before going on to a full vote by either the California senate or assembly. Typically – and this year was typical – those committees hold the bills until the last possible day, and then release the ones that have sufficient political muscle behind them. The rest die a quiet death, without anyone having to take heat for a no vote.
The casualty list includes assembly bill 2166, by assemblywoman Anna Caballero (D – Salinas), that would have set up agricultural technology programs and required county agriculture commissioners to track Internet availability in rural communities.
Likewise, AB 2431, by assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D – San Diego), was spiked. Although it was watered down as moved through committee reviews, the basic idea behind it was to allow school districts to file claims for “intervenor compensation” at the California Public Utilities Commission. California law allows outside groups to jump in on cases under review by the CPUC, and forces regulated companies to reimburse them for their costs. It can be a gold mine for lawyers and consultants, whose billable hours often run well into the six figure range. Giving them another way to cash in would add even more costs to utility bills and drag out already long and needlessly complicated proceedings.