California Senate votes to restore net neutrality

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The California Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would reinstate the net neutrality regulations repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in December.

The bill, S.B. 822, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco), was introduced in March and passed through three committees, all along party-lines. The bill was approved 23–12 and will now head to the state Assembly.

“Under President Obama, our country was moving in the right direction on guaranteeing an open internet, but the Trump-led FCC pulled the rug out from under the American people by repealing net neutrality protections,” Wiener said in a statement last month after the bill passed its final committee vote.

After the FCC moved to eliminate net neutrality rules, states began implementing their own measures. In January, over 20 attorneys general sued the commission before the order was even published. Some governors attempted to use executive orders, while others worked with legislators. California’s bill to restore protections in the state is one of the toughest responses to the FCC’s rollback.

The bill would reinstate rules similar to those in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. It forbids ISPs from throttling or blocking online content and requires them to treat all internet traffic equally.

But the bill also takes the original rules further by specifically banning providers from participating in some types of “zero-rating” programs, in which certain favored content doesn’t contribute to monthly data caps.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a statement on Tuesday that called the bill “a gold standard for states looking to protect net neutrality.”

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who spearheaded the Obama-era regulations, supports the bill. In March, he wrote a letter to the California Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee with two other former chairmen approving of the measure.

“These protections are essential to our economy and democracy. SB 822 steps in to protect Californians and their economy by comprehensively restoring the protections put in place in the 2015 net neutrality order,” the chairmen said.

If the bill goes on to pass in the Assembly, providers will no longer be able to obtain government contracts in the state of California without obeying the regulations.

After receiving final approval last month from the Office of Management and Budget, the federal net neutrality rules are set to end on June 11th, leaving states to legislate their own protections. California would be the third state to pass a net neutrality law, following Washington and Oregon.

“In California, we can lead the effort to clean up this mess and implement comprehensive, thorough internet protections that put California internet users and consumers first,” Wiener said.


Uh…this was…uhm…our plan all along…yeah…

Inevitable FCC/Trump administration future quote.

The bill, S.B. 822, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco), was introduced in March and passed through three committees, all along party-lines.

This is a partisan issue. If you care about it do not vote for the party that has it in their platform that they are against NN.

This is NOT a partisan issue. The vast majority of democrats, independents and republicans all support net neutrality.

This is a money issue. Just follow the money and you’ll see people against NN.

And of course the party of "States’ Rights" will nonetheless decry and overrule this . . .

Nice. Thank you, California.

My worry is what happens if the ISPs collude and none of them will meet the requirements? CA isn’t going to go without broadband. And the Feds wouldn’t prosecute collusion.

CA is the 5th largest economy in the world. I share your concerns (as a Californian myself) but I think just the tread of losing access to all that $$$ will keep the ISPs in line, even if they are colluding. It’s just too big of a market to risk.

The state could always build their own broadband network. I remember the states fighting to do this awhile back while major isp’s lobbied against it. If we can do it down in Utah, CA should be able to do something similar..

Regardless I think you’re right. I don’t see them just giving up the money in CA. Sacramento is one of Verizon’s first 5G cities; Imagine them just bailing on that investment.

If isp’s cullude and pull out of California that would leave the door open to brand new players homegrown or international.
We’ll see.

I hope other local government bodies step in/up to close the chasm that the federal government has placed between itself and the United states of America.

What a waste of taxpayer dollars. "All content treated equally." That’s like saying, we’re gonna force all phones to be priced equally. Or all burgers are gonna be priced equally. No healthy alternatives or free markets, that would allow for freedom to make things more or less expensive. Government shouldn’t be intruding into anything having to do with business. Get them out. Let the ISP’s control the pricing and distribution networks. People and businesses should be able to pay for more or less depending on what their needs are.

You currently do pay more or less depending on your need. I pay $85/mo for my internet. I get 75 mb down and 10 up. Its the fastest my ISP offers. If I want less speed they do offer cheaper plans, but that does not give them the right to refuse me to access whatever I want on the web. I pay them for access to the internet and expect to be able to access whatever is there. My ISP shouldn’t be allowed to limit what I can access for any reason. After all their only job is to provide access.

Removing net neutrality just lets your ISP block sites that don’t pay them directly meaning if Netflix refused to pay your ISP you wouldn’t have access to Netflix even if you wanted it, but Netflix already pays for internet access, that’s how they are able to run their website and services. Why should they have to pay every ISP separately when they are already paying the one they chose to use, or the multiple they chose to use depending on where/how their network is setup?

My understanding is that they only ever speed up or slow down experience depending on external factors and that under normal circumstances ISP’s would ideally give everyone the fastest speed possible. With time, I would assume that all companies will easily be able to provide everyone with very fast speeds, however, for now they have to go based on priorities.

Netflix is an interesting phenomenon, because it’s a business that uses the internet and yet doesn’t pay as much, even if they may use more or less bandwidth. I’ve never heard of ISP’s blocking Netflix completely, but I have heard of people having limitations or pay-restricted access to downloading/uploading content, which I would disagree with, and ideally everyone should be able to download or upload, according whatever speed can be provided for them

Way to go California. I don’t often agree with things I read from your state but this one is great. Hopefully many more states will follow suit.

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