California Legislature Passes Net Neutrality Bill

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In response to the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to repeal the Open Internet Order, California lawmakers have taken matters into their own hands by passing a measure that would provide net neutrality in the state.

Senate Bill 822, the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, is currently on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting signature.

The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order categorized broadband access as a utility service regulated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. As such, it prevented common carriers from accepting payments to prioritize some sites over others, and prohibited them from blocking access to legal content or throttling any Internet traffic.

Under new leadership with the change of administration, the FCC revoked the 2015 Order and passed the Restoring Internet Freedom Order in December 2017.

However, the repeal did little to lessen the strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia filed a placeholder lawsuit asking that the repeal order be invalidated, while multiple state governors signed executive orders requiring ISPs to follow net neutrality principles.

California went one step further by enacting legislation that essentially reinstates the Open Internet Order. Pursuant to S.B. 822, broadband providers would be prohibited from blocking or throttling traffic, charging higher fees for fast-lane services, and exempting their own video streams from data caps. Sponsor Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) called the bill “the strongest net neutrality protections in the country.”

While proponents hailed passage of the measure, industry groups have already vowed to fight back. USTelecom promised to file a lawsuit challenging the bill if it is signed into law. “The Internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches,” USTelecom said in a statement.

To read S.B. 822, click here.

Why it matters: The battle over net neutrality shows no signs of slowing down. If signed into law by Governor Brown, the bill could inspire other states to enact similar legislation. However, if enacted, the measure will likely face a legal challenge from opponents arguing that a patchwork of state laws violates the interstate commerce clause.



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