Net neutrality revival heads to a California assembly vote

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Two bills aimed at restoring network neutrality in California made it through a previous legislative road block yesterday. The California assembly’s communications and conveyances committee approved senate bills 822 and 460 on party line votes, with all net neutrality rules intact.

Most of the discussion yesterday was about zero rating and interconnection agreements. Lobbyists for AT&T, mobile carriers and Comcast’s and Charter Communications’ front organisation led the opposition to the bills. They didn’t like any of it, but they particularly objected to a ban on deals between ISPs and web companies that do an end run around net neutrality rules, and to restrictions on zero rating. They wouldn’t, say, be able to give unrestricted access to their own video streams while imposing data caps on third party content.

The author of SB 822, the primary net neutrality revival bill, made one technical change before the vote. Senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) eliminated a clause that tied it to SB 460. The way it was written before, if SB 460 didn’t pass, then SB 822 wouldn’t take effect. Weiner’s amendment eliminated that restriction. No reason was given, but it’s a smart move: there’s one less avenue of attack for opponents. SB 822 now goes to the assembly floor.

SB 460, which requires state and local agency to buy broadband service only from ISPs that abide by net neutrality rules, has to make a couple more committee stops. It’s still scheduled to be heard tomorrow in the assembly’s privacy and consumer protection committee, which is expected to look kindly upon it. It has budget implications, so the assembly’s appropriations committee will presumably have to sign off on it too.

Assuming the bills win a majority vote in the assembly, they’ll go back to the senate, which has to concur with the changes made.

There’s a lot left to be done before the legislature shuts down in eight days.