State Net Neutrality Bills Join Forces While S.F. Plan Stalls

The strengthened state effort comes as San Francisco's citywide internet plan hits a funding snag.

At least two state proposals that came of the net neutrality free-for-all set loose after the Trump administration vowed to undo the internet protections are banding together.

State Senators Scott Weiner, who represents San Francisco, and Kevin de Leon, of Los Angeles, announced on Monday that they are combining their respective net neutrality efforts to be passed together. The two are marketed as complementary and must both be signed into law for either to going into effect.

Wiener’s bill, SB 822, received more support from net neutrality advocates for having stronger protections, which mirrored the FCC’s former net neutrality regulations. De Leon’s SB 460 ultimately took the backseat in endorsements due to its lack of airtight language that would also prevent loopholes.

Together, internet service providers would be prevented from censoring and slowing websites and online services as well as charging higher fees to load content faster. State agencies would also be restricted to doing business with providers who abide by net neutrality.

“Particularly in light of the massive consolidation between internet service providers and media companies – most recently AT&T and Time Warner – we can’t just trust ISPs to allow equal internet access,” Weiner said in a statement. “And, given the federal government’s failure to protect net neutrality, California must step up to protect our residents and businesses.”

When the FCC first announced it would work to undo net neutrality, San Francisco constituents saw just about every level of government announce its own way to combat that decision. For the past several months, Mayor Mark Farrell has led the effort to enshrine protections while launching a citywide fiber internet network.

But as the state legislative effort moves forward, Mayor Mark Farrell’s plan hit a funding obstacle with the decision to not place a tax on the November ballot, the San Francisco Examiner first reported. Polls showed it would be short of the two-thirds majority votes needed to pass.

Farrell, set to leave the mayor’s office next month, put the request for project proposals on hold and is running out of time to find an alternate funding source for the estimated $1.7 billion needed for the project. The issue punts to President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed — who is poised to become official mayor-elect — but has not announced intentions with the project.

San Francisco’s plan to establish net neutrality with citywide internet may be on indefinite hold but California could have something on the books soon. The two state bills will be heard together on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee.

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