Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers reach deal to re­vive net neu­tral­ity bill

Af­ter a ma­jor set­back weeks ago, leg­is­la­tors find com­mon ground on an amended SB 822 be­fore break

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS - By Levi Su­ma­gaysay lsuma­gaysay@ba­yare­anews­group.com

As state law­mak­ers headed to a month long sum­mer break, they breathed new life Thurs­day into an ef­fort to pass a strong net neu­tral­ity bill in Cal­i­for­nia.

Net neu­tral­ity is the prin­ci­ple that all in­ter­net traf­fic should be treated equally. In a clear vic­tory for in­ter­net ser­vice providers, the Obama-era fed­eral rules pro­tect­ing net neu­tral­ity were re­cently re­pealed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion. Since then, many states have adopted or are try­ing to adopt their own rules to pro­tect their res­i­dents from in­ter­net ser­vices that may be de­graded, slowed down, or changed in other ways.

The ef­fort in Cal­i­for­nia, headed by state Sens. Scott Wiener, D- San Fran­cisco, and Kevin de Leon, D-Los An­ge­les, seemed doomed af­ter an Assem­bly com­mit­tee ef­fec­tively gut­ted SB 822, Wiener’s bill, a cou­ple of weeks ago. De Leon had agreed to pair his bill, SB 460, with Wiener’s bill, but Assem­bly­man Miguel San­ti­ago, D-Los An­ge­les, ob­jected and in­tro­duced amend­ments to weaken SB 822.

San­ti­ago, chair­man of the state Assem­bly Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Con­veyance Com­mit­tee, then rushed through a vote on his amend­ments with­out hear­ing tes­ti­mony first — an unusual move that drew out­rage. Although SB 822 passed that com­mit­tee and an­other one af­ter that, Wiener said he would with­draw his bill if he couldn’t re­store the strong

net neu­tral­ity pro­tec­tions he had in­tended when he wrote the bill.

All that ap­peared to be be­hind the law­mak­ers, who pre­sented a united front Thurs­day.

“The leg­isla­tive process al­ways has twists and turns,” Wiener said in a phone in­ter­view be­fore he held a press con­fer­ence­with San­ti­ago and oth­ers in Sacra­mento. “It’s never a com­pletely lin­ear process. All that mat­ters is that we get to the right place.”

San­ti­ago char­ac­ter­ized the net neu­tral­ity is­sue as a way to re­sist the Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies: “Now more than ever, we need to be able to tell sto­ries and em­power peo­ple with in­for­ma­tion that is ac­cu­rate,” he said at the press con­fer­ence Thurs­day. He added that “deny­ing free­dom of in­for­ma­tion is a di­rect at­tack on our democ­racy, and it’s es­sen­tial we fight back.”

In re­sponse to ques­tions about why there was drama sur­round­ing his amend­ments to SB 822 in the first place, San­ti­ago— whose ac­tions a cou­ple of weeks ago were called a betrayal to the Demo­cratic party and drew threats against hi­mand ha­rass­ment of his wife — in­sisted it was sim­ply due to the law­mak­ers “run­ning out of time” dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Wiener noted Thurs­day that he and San­ti­ago came to an agree­ment “the old­fash­ioned­way: We sat down and had a good di­a­logue.” He also cred­ited Assem­bly­manRon Bonta, D-Oak­land, a co-au­thor of the bill, who he said is close to both him and San­ti­ago, with help­ing fa­cil­i­tate the con­ver­sa­tion.

“We’re do­ing what Cal­i­for­ni­ans have come to ex­pect of us — we’re lead­ing,” Bonta said at the press con­fer­ence. “Cal­i­for­ni­ans, we have your back.”

SB 822 has been called the most com­pre­hen­sive of states’ rules pro­posed in re­sponse to the FCC re­peal of the Obama-era net neu­tral­ity rules.

“SB822 is one of the­most im­por­tant pieces of leg­is­la­tion to come out of Sacra­mento this year,” ad­vo­cacy group De­mand Progress said in a state­ment Thurs­day.

Ma­jor ISPs have bat­tled state-level net neu­tral­ity rules, say­ing that hav­ing sep­a­rate state reg­u­la­tions is too com­pli­cated and could hurt in­no­va­tion.

“We sup­port a fed­eral so­lu­tion,” Carolyn McIn­tyre, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Ca­ble & Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion, has said at var­i­ous hear­ings about SB 822, in­clud­ing the most re­cent one June 26 be­fore the state Assem­bly’s Pri­vacy and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Com­mit­tee.

Wiener’s bill, as it stands now, re­stores these key pro­vi­sions: re­quir­ing ad­her­ence to net neu­tral­ity at the point of in­ter­con­nec­tion; ban­ning abu­sive zero rat­ing; and ban­ning charg­ing of ac­cess fees. The amend­ments will be sub­mit­ted when the state leg­is­la­ture re­con­venes Aug. 6.

SB 822 is next sched­uled to be heard by the Assem­bly Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, which must act by mid-Au­gust. SB 460, which is be­ing joined with SB 822, will fo­cus on re­quir­ing state con­tracts to ad­here to net neu­tral­ity pro­tec­tions. The state leg­is­la­ture has un­til Aug. 31 to vote on the bills.

Wiener said he was “cau­tiously op­ti­mistic,” that the bills would pass, but he said the op­po­si­tion will be “in­tense and well-funded.”

Wiener

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