New California Bill Aims to Revive Net Neutrality

State Sen. Scott Wiener seeks to use the state's regulatory power to require net neutrality after the FCC voted to repeal it nationwide.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

On its first day back to work after the holidays, the California Legislature is taking up the fight to resurrect net neutrality.

State Sen. Scott Wiener is introducing a bill Wednesday afternoon — co-authored by 10 other mostly-Bay Area state representatives — that would add net neutrality to state regulations. The move fulfills the promise Wiener made immediately after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulation on party lines in December.

Net neutrality framework established under the Obama administration classified broadband service as Title II, which regulates it like a utility. Internet service providers, or ISPs, are now allowed to slow down sites based on its content, charge more for internet “fast lanes,” and block websites or apps of their choosing.

Free speech advocates have led the charge to preserve net neutrality, saying that smaller companies like nonprofits or startups might not be able to afford higher costs and would end up with slow loading that drives away visitors.

So far, 18 state attorneys filed a lawsuit to undo the vote over fake FCC comments and Washington state has a bill similar to Wiener’s in the works.

California’s equivalent bill, provided to SF Weekly, would make net neutrality a condition to attach equipment to utility poles, for state contracts, and for cable packages to use the public spaces needed for cable companies facilities. It would also regulate business practices to require net neutrality.

“We won’t let the Trump-led FCC dismantle our right to a free and open internet, and we won’t let them create a system where internet providers can favor websites and services based on who pays more money,” Wiener says in a statement. “It’s terrible for consumers, for small businesses, for innovation, and for the free flow of information in our country.”

The FCC proposal preemptively banned state and local net neutrality rules but Wiener believes it was an overreach of power based on a previous court ruling. 

“As the epicenter of technological innovation, California has a special responsibility to ensure that the internet remains free and open” says Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for the ACLU of California, in a statement.

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