The strongest net neutrality bill in America has now been neutered by an ISP-funded state legislator.
An incredibly powerful net neutrality bill has now been de-fanged and ‘mutilated’. In a series of drastic modifications executed late Tuesday evening, net neutrality bill SB 822 was summarily stripped of its protections through a series of amendments.
California Senator Miguel Santiago, who counts AT&T as a top donor, triggered the changes at roughly 10 pm, before a general hearing was scheduled. Sessions held that late are extremely rare, and typically reserved for extreme emergencies.
Santiago, who chairs the California Assembly’s Committee on Communications and Conveyance, forced the changes during the late-night session to prevent any debate or opposition. The procedural trick succeeded by excluding the bill’s architects and key proponents, including Senator Scott Wiener, who sponsored the bill. Other state Senators present at the session voted for the changes.
Wiener was not present to vote on the amendments, and it’s unlikely he was notified of the efforts. That, of course, wasn’t an accident. The subsequent hearing, slated for the next morning, was then focused on a completely different, sabatoged bill.
Early Wednesday, Wiener called SB 822 “mutilated”. “This is a fake net neutrality bill,” Wiener stated, obviously unhappy at the late-night modifications.
Ernesto Falcon of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helped to craft SB 822, called the effort ‘corrupt,’ and a ‘bait and switch on behalf of AT&T and Comcast.’
“Amendments were proposed at 10 pm the night before the [scheduled] hearing,” Falcon noted. “And they were voted on before the bill was heard and before the bill’s author, State Sen. Scott Wiener, could argue against them. Or before the witnesses and Wiener could argue for the bill as written.”
“The result is, no matter what, not net neutrality.”
Earlier, Wiener and other Senators were seeking to combine SB 822 with another net neutrality initiative, SB 460. Those efforts are now useless, given that SB 822 has been stripped of most of its net neutrality protections.
Here are the major changes — or ‘mutilations’ — to SB 822:
(a) Comcast, AT&T, and others have full permission to charge any website any amount to connect to their customers. This is effectively the opposite of net neutrality (make this ‘net neutrality’ bill largely ridiculous).
(b) Throttling is permitted.
(c) ISPs like AT&T will be fully permitted to exercise ‘zero rating’ programs, which allow the carrier to eliminate data charges for its preferred media partners (including programming from its just-acquired Time Warner).
The EFF called the effort ‘rampant corruption,’ though it’s unclear what they can do about it.
“Giant ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have worked overtime to defeat this bill, including donating a lot of money,” Falcon continued. “Between the money, the disingenuous arguments of the telecoms, and the manipulated process that forced the hostile amendments into the bill, what happened this week shows just what giant corporations can accomplish with willing legislators.”
Sadly, the effort seems to demonstrate the outsized influence that ISPs carry. Even against overwhelming opposition from Americans, ISPs are successfully buying legislation.
Separately, New York State has mirrored SB 822 in its original form. That offers the possibility of similar legislation getting passed in another powerful state. Though it’s unclear if similar dynamics will emerge in New York to defeat the measure. Sadly, the actual people using the internet — and paying for it — have little influence in the matter.
Currently, there are only two states — Oregon and Washington State — with net neutrality laws.