Taking matters into their own hands, California legislators are moving forward with plans to enact state net neutrality rules that are tougher and more comprehensive than the federal rules set to expire soon.
In a move that will likely touch off more nasty legal battles, the Democratic-controlled California State Senate passed the net neutrality legislation by a 23-12 margin last week over the fierce opposition of big ISPs like AT&T and Comcast. With strong grassroots support throughout the nation's largest state, the bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled State Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for expected approval.
Known as SB 822, the bill is California's response to the move by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to eliminate the current federal rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of Internet content by ISPs. Barring the highly unlikely restoration of the national net neutrality rules by Congress and President Trump over the next week or unfavorable court rulings, the federal rules will sunset on June 11. (See Senate Vote Says Net Neutrality Can Stay Around a Little Longer and FCC Nixes Net Neutrality Rules on June 11.)
The California bill would add several online practices to state law definition of "certain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the provision of goods and services in the state." Under the bill, those unfair methods would now include blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of web content, as well as paid zero-rating plans.
Also, SB 822 would restrict access to the state's Universal Service Fund broadband subsidies to ISPs that abide by the proposed net neutrality rules. Further, the bill would apply the net neutrality concept to network interconnections, just as the FCC did when it passed the Obama-era Open Internet Order in 2015, but which the currently Republican-controlled FCC has reversed.
Predictably, net neutrality supporters hailed the California Senate's passage of the legislation. But, even if the bill becomes law, the matter won't be settled because the FCC is pre-empting states from trying to impose the rules within their boundaries. For more on this story, please turn to our Light Reading sister site. (See California Lawmakers Hug Net Neutrality.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading