New York & California Legislators Join Forces to Create a ‘Bi-Coastal’ Net Neutrality Resistance

Pro-Net Neutrality California State Senator Scott Wiener
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Pro-Net Neutrality California State Senator Scott Wiener
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California State Senator Scott Wiener

Senators from California and New York State are joining forces to create a ‘bi-coastal’ set of stringent net neutrality laws.

California has drafted the toughest state net neutrality bill to date, one that is widely expected to pass into law.  Now, New York State is virtually copying the language of that bill, with the intent of creating a fierce, bi-coastal net neutrality resistance.

Earlier this week, California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (D/WF-Manhattan) formally announced the joint initiative.  Essentially, Hoylman is introducing a New York version of California Senate Bill 822, a tough net neutrality bill that has been fortified by lawyers from Stanford Law School and the formidable Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The end result could be the passage of extremely tough net neutrality protection laws in two very powerful states.  In terms of population and economic output, California and New York rank 1st and 3rd in the U.S., respectively.  The dual passage would make it extremely difficult for major ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to institute paid prioritization schemes and throttling of legitimate sites.

“When the federal government fails to guarantee these basic rights, it is necessary for states to intervene and provide a platform for free expression.” — Senator Hoylman.

“States can and should bring forward net neutrality rules to protect consumers and our democracy,” Senator Wiener stated. “The repeal of net neutrality has left people all across our country vulnerable to having their internet access manipulated, and states need to step up to enact comprehensive, thorough internet protections that put our residents first.

“I’m proud to be working with Senator Hoylman to broaden our effort across the country.”

The cross-country collaboration is remarkable, but unified by similar principles related to neutrality and open access.  “When the federal government fails to guarantee these basic rights, it is necessary for states to intervene and provide a platform for free expression,” Hoylman expressed.  “I am proud to lead by example alongside Senator Wiener and the State of California, and hope other states will do the same.”

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That last part of Hoylman’s statement is interesting, as it invites other states to join the powerful pact.  That would ensure a more uniform set of net neutrality state laws, and a stronger level of resistance against the FCC’s rollback.

Already, Wiener’s SB 822 has been approved by two committees in the California State Senate.  The bill is currently pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee, though major ISPs like AT&T and Comcast are rumored to be spending millions to defeat the measure.  So far, they’re losing.

According to Hoylman, the New York bill:

  • Prohibits blocking, throttling, or interfering with any content, service, or device based on the nature of the content or type of service
  • Requires that all data traffic be Application Agonistic with no varying access between types of applications or classes of applications (video streaming faster than phone services)
  • Prohibits charging access fees to services to reach consumers, which favors services that can pay and stifles competition for small businesses or new services
  • Prohibits engaging in misleading or deceptive marketing and advertising
  • Prohibits practices which distort and manipulate consumer choice by subsidizing favored content so that it does not count against any data cap in a customer plan
  • Preserves the right of the consumer to choose whether, when, and for what purposes they use the internet once they have access to it
  • Preserves the right of the consumer to choose whether, when, and for what purpose they use the internet, once they have access to it
  • Allows ISPs to adjust their service that may be in violation of the above protections, provided those adjustments are for purely technical reasons.
  • These adjustments must be reasonably Application Agnostic, i.e. apply evenly to all types of web traffic, and be tailored to a technical need, not an economic benefit.

Additionally, Hoylman also noted that his bill contains “rules that the state and municipal corporations shall not purchase, provide funding or enter into a contract with a provider of broadband internet that is not compliant, requires all procurements under public authorities and economic development laws comply.”

Separately, other states are also charging ahead with their own net neutrality laws.  That includes Washington State, which passed the nation’s first net neutrality law in February.  Oregon soon followed suit, with governor Kate Brown signing a bill in early April.  Aside from California and New York, Illinois could be next.

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Of course, the double whammy of California and New York could seriously derail the FCC’s effort to implement any meaningful net neutrality rollback.  Collectively, both states count more than 59 million residents, which is roughly 18% of the entire U.S. population.

Toss Oregon and Washington into that calculation, and the percentage moves to nearly 22%.  But other states are pushing back in other ways, including governor-issued Executive Orders, changes to municipal laws, and lawsuits against the FCC.  At last count, 70% of U.S. states were fighting the net neutrality rollback in some manner.