While Net Neutrality is considered to be all but dead and buried in the United States following the repeal of nationwide rules by the Trump administration, legislation being considered in California may bring it back to life.
California was one of three states to vow to introduce their own laws to restore net neutrality. New York acted first, with an executive order withholding state contracts from any company violating net neutrality principles. Washington state followed suit in March with a more comprehensive law which makes it illegal for companies to block or slow online content – that is, restoring the protections previously applied nationwide.
While the proposed California legislation at first appeared to be too watered-down to be of any positive effect, a statement by Senator Scott Wiener indicates there is hope that new language being crafted provides ‘strong and enforceable’ net neutrality protections.
Today, the legislators announced an agreement on bill language that will ensure California enacts strong, comprehensive, and enforceable net neutrality reflecting what was repealed by the FCC last year. This agreement includes key original concepts in Senator Wiener’s SB 822, including a ban on fees to access internet service provider customers, ensuring net neutrality is not circumvented/evaded at the point of interconnection, and prohibiting discriminatory and anti-competitive zero-rating services. In addition, Senator de Leon’s SB 460 will be amended to ensure that companies entering into state contracts abide by net neutrality principles. As previously announced, SB 822 and SB 460 will be joined so that the two move forward together and complement one another.
The bills have until August 21 to be approved.
California has a history of being a leader in new regulations that eventually apply to the entire nation, simply because of the size and population of California. Emission and gas mileage regulations for automobiles comes to mind. Hopefully, this California legislation – if it becomes law – will have the same ripple effect.