United States

Calif. Lawmakers Introduce ‘Strongest Net Neutrality Protections in the Nation'

California lawmakers announced Thursday that a legislation billed as the "strongest net neutrality protection in the nation" will be moved forward.

Sen. Scott Wiener, along with Sen. Kevin De Leon, Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago and Rob Bonta, said they have reached an agreement to include SB 822 into the bill to ensure prohibit Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking websites, speeding up or slowing down websites.

"I'm really proud that we've been able to craft a terrific bill that will be effective and that will stand legal challenge," Wiener said.

Assemblymember Santiago, who was a subject of online attacks after he reportedly watered down a previous version of the bill, was praised by Wiener for his commitment to working to improve the legislation.

"At no time in history do we need an open and free internet than we need it now," Santiago said at the news conference.

"Recently, we just saw the Janus decision. We saw a Muslim ban; Citizens United, a few years ago. A woman's right to choose is under attack. Now more than ever, we need to be able to tell these stories," he continued.

The FCC last year repealed Obama-era regulations that prevented internet companies from speeding up or slowing down the delivery of certain content. Net neutrality advocates worry that, without net neutrality rules, internet providers would be free to block political content, slow down websites from their competitors or drive consumers to their own content.

The debate in California is being closely watched by net neutrality advocates around the country, who are looking to the state to pass sweeping net neutrality provisions that could drive momentum in other states.

Wiener said the key provisions removed from his bill were restored. One would require data be treated equally at the point where it enters an internet company's network, not just within the company's own infrastructure. The other bans a practice known as "zero rating," in which internet or cellphone providers exempt certain data from a monthly cap. Critics of the practice say zero rating encourages low monthly data caps and cuts off vast swaths of the internet for people who can't afford higher data allotments.

He declined to release the new bill language until lawmakers return in August from a summer break.

Internet companies say it's not practical for them to comply with state-by-state internet regulations and warn that Wiener's bill would discourage the rollout of new technology in California.

Under the agreement, Wiener's bill will be linked to separate legislation by Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon to prohibit state contracting with companies that don't abide by net neutrality provisions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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