State of California Passes Its Own Net Neutrality Bill — In Direct Defiance of the FCC

California passes a net neutrality bill
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California lawmakers have officially passed a bill protecting net neutrality in its state.  The move is a direct counter-attack against the FCC’s neutrality rollback.

If the FCC wanted an even bigger headache, they got it this morning.  After massive pushback from Montana, New York, and more than a dozen other states, California has now passed a bill forcing net neutrality throughout the state.

The bill is highly likely to become law — probably within weeks (if not days).

Just last night, the California State Senate approved the bill, which requires any ISP operating within the state to adhere to net neutrality provisions.  Accordingly, any ISP begging differently can take their business elsewhere — and effectively forfeit billions in future revenues.

The bill in question is SB-460, spurred by State Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

León had little trouble rallying support around the initiative, with a 21-12 vote in favor.

The bill is now hurtling towards becoming law.  SB-460 now heads to the State Assembly, where the pro-neutrality Democrats hold a sizable 53-25 majority over the Republicans.  Even so, Republicans may cross the line on this one, especially with an uncertain midterm election approaching.

Incidentally, there’s actually another net neutrality bill being deliberated in California.  The ‘other’ bill, SB822, was introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).  Looking ahead, both bills are likely to be merged, with various details ironed out.

The SB460 bill flatly prohibits “paid prioritization, or providing preferential treatment of some Internet traffic to any Internet customer.”

It also makes it illegal for any ISP to limit a customer’s ability to “select, access, and use broadband Internet access service or lawful Internet content, applications, services, or devices of the customer’s choice.”

State agencies are prohibited from buying internet services from any ISP that does not follow these rules.  If an ISP misrepresents its stance on net neutrality to a government agency, it will be committing perjury under the new law.

The bill closely resembles other recently-passed executive orders in Montana and New York.  Just last week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order that would also prevent any throttling, paid prioritization, or other moves limiting access to legal apps and sites.

Technically, those orders pertain to contracts with state agencies.  But California’s laws extend far beyond, and even call for punitive action against ISPs knowingly throttling or blocking access.

The massive state pushback is forcing ISPs to make a difficult choice.

Initially, access providers like Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Cox Communications were ecstatic following the FCC rollbacks.  The reason is that fast lanes are pricey luxuries for companies, and could draw billions in toll charges from companies like Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Spotify.

But extreme pushback from states like New York and California immediately complicated that picture.

For starters, ISPs are now considering a patchwork of different access rules, depending on the state.  But even if the federal government successfully imposes its will on states like California, ISPs will be viewed with hostility.  That war zone is bad for business, and ultimately, the FCC’s heavy-handed ruling could represent a setback.

Underpinning all of this is an intense public outcry to protect net neutrality.  That was flatly ignored by the FCC and its politically out-of-touch chairman, Ajit Pai, though Pai is now receiving a brutal lesson in grassroots politics.  That rebellion is now fomenting into a multi-headed hydra, a beast that includes extreme pushback from state legislatures, governors, and states attorney generals.

Consumers represent another major resistance front, one that could spur taxpayer-funded ISPs.  Already, towns like Fort Collins, CO have built their own ISPs to broaden access and lower costs.

The situation is probably good news for music and media companies.

The reason is that ISPs are taking a big step back, and potentially considering a nationwide preservation of net neutrality.  Frankly, that may be cheaper than state-by-state modifications, despite sacrificing juicy toll charges from platforms like Spotify.



8 Responses

  1. BCL1

    I am still not sure about being for/against Net Neutrality. Yes, I understand the advantages of it, but Net Neutrality started when the internet was young and uncertain and served as a protection for new innovative companies. But is the internet now mature enough that those sorts of protections are not necessary? Yes, without Net Neutrality certain large established internet businesses would remain entrenched and relatively immune to small startups “eating their lunch”, but is this really a problem? The internet is 25 years old now and the “innovations” that we have been seeing the last year or two really are not that innovative at all. Has the information age entered a new phase of commodities — where price determines who is successful and not the innovation? Couple this maturing of the industry with how much Net Neutrality encourages media piracy (which, while “everybody does it”, is theft from large media companies and is the real unspoken reason why so many people are for keeping it), and maybe the advantages of having Net Neutrality are out-weighed by not having it. I don’t know. It’s a tough call. I think back to when the phone system was broken up, and at that time there was a spark in innovation of phones, but there was also an explosion in the theft of services via “phone freeking”. This phase of growth for the internet, however, may not be in the future, but in the past. Like I said, I don’t know. . .

    • From EU

      Who can say, this is OK to slow(block) and this is not ? Blocking? … yes, if some website is opening very slow, in future you will not go there again. This way effectively killing any internet company or force them to pay “speed” money toward ISP.

      • Luda Godzila

        Yes, I totaly agree…and that’s one of many negative things

  2. Pebah

    Paul is this news, or opinion? “…its politically out-of-touch chairman, Ajit Pai.”

    • JoffN

      Uh, depending on which set of poll numbers you believe, either 83% or 93% of the American people want net neutrality. The Trump/Pai action was orchestrated treason and it practically amounts to imposed fascism. How much more out of touch with political reality one can get?

    • JoffN

      They claim it’s about piracy, it’s really about distribution control. Our entertainment/media establishment is trying to force last century’s one-way cable TV business models onto our two-way internet. It’s funny to watch and the harder they try the more absurd their effort gets.

  3. JoffN

    For those interested, California will shortly be passing SB-822, which fully and forever restores net neutrality in our state. 20+ other states are doing likewise, and it now falls on our federal government to claim the states and people do not have the right to regulate their own utility and information networks. I wish them no luck because that’s as much as they’re going to get. There is absolutely no way our courts can justify this imposed and entirely self-serving fascism.