Think 'Net Neutrality' Is Dead? Think Again.
On Wednesday, the California state Senate approved guarantees of net neutrality that are stricter than the ones the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented in 2015. Those federal rules prohibited blocking, throttling (intentionally limiting available bandwidth) and paid prioritization.
In December 2017, under Republican-controlled leadership, the FCC repealed the 2015 rules. The commission had received 23.5 million public comments, 98.5 percent of which contained requests that the FCC oppose the repeal. Polls at that time showed Americans favored the 2015 guarantees by 83 percent (75 percent of polled Republicans were in favor of net neutrality).
The telecommunications industry, with the help of its super PACs, made $101 million in campaign contributions to members of Congress between 1989 and 2017, with the largest contributions coming from AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.
This week’s party-line vote in the California Senate was 23-12, Democrats over Republicans. The measure needs to be approved by the Democratic-majority California Assembly and then signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The Verge reports:
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.
A concern for supporters of net neutrality is that the broadband industry might use the courts to stop states from implementing rules of the kind passed by the California Senate.