California net neutrality bills hit the final stretch

27 August 2018 by Steve Blum
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It’s five days and counting, to the end of the California legislature’s 2018 session. There are hundreds of bills still under consideration. Not all of them will pass, of course. Some will be voted down, but even more will die a quiet death, for lack of a vote.

Senate bill 822 is not likely to go away quietly. It’s the high profile bill, by senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco), that would establish stringent network neutrality rules in California. It’s prepped for a floor vote in the California assembly, which could come as soon as this afternoon. Whenever it happens, expect it to win approval by a healthy margin. It’s become a partisan issue for democrats, and some republicans might jump on board too.

Once passed by the assembly, SB 822 goes back to the California senate. If the senate agrees with the changes made in the assembly, the bill heads for the governor’s desk. Otherwise, it goes to a conference committee. If that happens, take it as a danger signal – conference committees can make sudden and significant changes to bills, without public scrutiny. But there’s no reason, at this point, to think that’ll happen.

SB 460, authored by senator Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), requires state and local agencies to buy Internet service only from companies that abide by net neutrality principles. It has a longer road to travel. The assembly privacy and consumer protection committee approved it on a party line vote last week, and now the assembly appropriations committee has to bless it. The meeting is scheduled for later today.

That’ll be an opportunity for legislative leaders to kill it through inaction, if they’re so inclined. It has a lower profile than SB 822, but it could be perceived as a greater threat by telecoms lobbyists – it’s about state spending rather than Internet regulation, which makes it far more resistant to future legal challenges.