California restores Obama-era net neutrality protections
Lawmakers in California passed new legislation that will restore virtually all of the net neutrality protections first introduced during the Obama administration.
The bill is the most sweeping state legislation since current FCC chairman Ajit Pai led a campaign to repeal those Obama-era regulations, arguing at the time that they were too imposing on the multi-billion dollar telecommunications conglomerates that control most of the country’s internet infrastructure.
Predictably, the industry’s largest lobbying group came out forcefully against California’s new bill, which now goes to the desk of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto. He has yet to indicate whether he will sign the measure.
If he does, the new law, which passed the legislature on Friday, will prohibit internet service providers (or ISPs) from forking the web traffic of their customers into slower or faster lanes of service based on whether certain websites pay more.
It will also ban ISPs from blocking or slowing down access to certain subsets of data, like video. And it will greatly reduce the degree to which providers can “zero-rate” certain kinds of data, effectively giving certain companies favorable treatment over others. The bill closely mirrors the net neutrality protections President Barack Obama fought for during his administration and imposed with the help of his FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.
On Friday, shortly after the state senate passed the final version of California’s net neutrality bill, a spokesman for the industry’s top lobbying firm tried to paint California’s new bill as a matter of state vs. federal governance, disingenuously suggesting that the industry opposed the bill because it means they will have to abide by different sets of rules based on which state the operate in.
“The internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches,” said USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter in a statement.
What he neglected to mention was the fact that USTelecom — which counts Verizon and AT&T as members—has constantly opposed all efforts to introduce net neutrality, whether at the national or state level. That includes the Obama-era federal regulations.
USTelecom has already threatened to sue California should Gov. Brown sign the bill into law. He has until the end of the month to make a decision.