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It looks like California is getting a real net neutrality law after all

Published Jul 7th, 2018 4:46PM EDT
California net neutrality bill progress
Image: Cultura/REX/Shutterstock

After the Federal Communications Commission voted last year to undo net neutrality rules that tightly regulated how internet providers could mess with your internet, state legislatures across the country sprung into action. California, as you might expect, was one of the first states to start working on the issue, and when a bill made its way through one of the houses in May, it looked like the issue was virtually settled.

But two weeks ago, Democratic Assemblyman Miguel Santiago stripped the bill of any teeth during the committee process, drawing rebukes from interest groups, and accusations that Santiago was being swayed by sizeable donations from the telecoms industry. According to the bill’s sponsor Sen. Scott Wiener, however, he has come to an agreement with Santiago to put the provisions back in, paving the way for California to pass the nation’s most robust net neutrality legislation.

“We need to ensure the internet is an open field where everyone has access, the companies that are providing internet access are not picking winners and losers,” Wiener told reporters earlier today.

The telecoms industry, which lobbied heavily to get the FCC net neutrality rules replaced, is unsurprisingly not stoked about the bill.

“For decades, California has benefited from American innovation and investment, but SB 822 is a flawed and consumer unfriendly approach,” CTIA, one of the telecoms industry’s key lobbyists, said in a statement.

If the bill makes it all the way through both houses and is signed into law, it’s likely to face a complicated legal battle from telecoms providers. Under normal circumstances, FCC rules surrounding net neutrality would pre-empt any state law, making the California bill toothless. However, the mechanism that the FCC used to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order didn’t just remove the net neutrality rules; it stripped the FCC of its own enforcement power, meaning that states may be able to write their own net neutrality legislation.