Prediction: Brown will sign California net neutrality bill into law

22 September 2018 by Steve Blum
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With a week left to go before a decision is due, California governor Jerry Brown hasn’t said which side he’s going to land on in the network neutrality debate. Senate bill 822, which would restore net neutrality rules in California, is still sitting on his desk.

Brown does not give away much, if anything, when he’s considering bills. He gives bills serious thought. Some more than others, but he makes his own decisions. He’s good at balancing political, fiscal, operational and philosophical considerations. Which ones he gives more weight to depends on the issue.

So with full awareness that no one knows what he will do with a bill until he does it, I’m going to make a prediction: Brown will sign SB 822 into law.

With the death of SB 460, which would have required state and location agencies to only buy Internet service from net-neutral providers, SB 822 is less of a threat to telecoms companies. SB 460 was about how state and local taxpayer money is spent and the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t have the authority to preempt it. There is a significant possibility of federal preemption of SB 822, though, which would solve any problems that AT&T, Comcast or Charter Communications have with the bill.

So the political downside of SB 822 – reduced campaign cashflow from big telecom – is less than it would have been. On the other hand, it’s a flagship political issue for democrats, particularly in Washington, D.C. It would be hard for Brown to defer to the Trump administration on a high profile issue like net neutrality, even if he wanted to.

Politically, SB 822 is a plus for democrats, and it has minor financial and administrative consequences for state government operations. The only wild card is whether Brown has fundamental, philosophical objections to the state jumping into telecoms policy territory.

I don’t think he does. Quite the contrary.