California assembly committee gets a net neutrality do over today

22 August 2018 by Steve Blum
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California’s network neutrality revival is queued up for a key committee hearing this afternoon, with another one scheduled for tomorrow. Senate bills 822 and 460 are on the agenda – the only items on the agenda – of the California assembly’s communications and conveyances committee at 1:30 p.m.

That’s the same committee that gutted SB 822 in June. Its chairman, assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles), had a change of heart after withering attacks from the online community and appeals – aka a stern talking to – from state and national democratic party leaders.

One big clue that the two bills will make it through today’s hearing unscathed is in the committee staff analyses that were published yesterday. The analysis for SB 822 and the one for SB 460 are both straight forward statements of facts. More importantly, neither has any, um, suggestions for how the bills might be improved. That’s the standard method for amending bills in hearings. There’s no guarantee, though. Santiago has thrown screwballs in his committee before.

Last week, the assembly went through the formality of suspending the rules so the bills could move forward, even though key deadlines were missed.

SB 822, authored by senator Scott Weiner (D – San Francisco) would reinstate the bright line net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC in 2015, when it had a democratic majority: no blocking, throttling or paid prioritisation. California’s version would go one step further and also ban zero rating, which happens when an Internet service provider doesn’t count in-house content against a subscriber’s data cap.

It was tweaked earlier this week. The changes appear to be welcome edits, which eliminate uncertainty that might be exploited by ISPs.

SB 460, carried by senator Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles) would require state and local agencies to buy Internet service only from ISPs that abide by California’s rules. Both bills have to pass for either to take effect.

Assuming everything is still on track, this afternoon’s hearing should be relatively short, at least a lot shorter than the marathon session in June. The usual suspects – chiefly AT&T and the lobbying front organisation used by Comcast and Charther Communications – will probably state their standard objections, and then the bills will be approved and sent on to the next committee.

Assuming everything is on track.

That next stop is the assembly privacy and consumer protection committee, which was more sympathetic the last time around. That hearing would come on Thursday.