Cal­i­for­nia In­ter­net neu­tral­ity bill clears key hur­dle

Ripon Bulletin - - Local/state -

SACRA­MENTO (AP) — The Cal­i­for­nia As­sem­bly voted Wed­nes­day to en­shrine net neu­tral­ity in state law, de­liv­er­ing a ma­jor vic­tory to ad­vo­cates look­ing to re­quire an equal play­ing field on the in­ter­net.

In the lat­est ef­fort by Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers to drive na­tional pol­icy and re­buff Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, law­mak­ers ap­proved one of the na­tion’s most ag­gres­sive ef­forts to re­vive reg­u­la­tions re­pealed last year by the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion. The rules pre­vented in­ter­net com­pa­nies from ex­er­cis­ing more con­trol over what peo­ple watch and see on the in­ter­net.

The 58-17 vote Thurs­day was sur­pris­ingly lop­sided af­ter the As­sem­bly was seen as a po­ten­tial bar­rier to the bill’s pas­sage. It re­turns to the Se­nate, which passed an ear­lier ver­sion and is ex­pected to sign off on changes from the As­sem­bly be­fore the Leg­is­la­ture ad­journs on Fri­day.

“We all know why we’re here. It’s pretty clear,” said As­sem­bly­man Miguel San­ti­ago, a Los Angeles Demo­crat. “The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion de­stroyed the in­ter­net as we know it.”

The As­sem­bly’s vote fol­lowed months of in­tense lob­by­ing from in­ter­net com­pa­nies, which warned that it would lead to higher costs.

Cal­i­for­nia’s net neu­tral­ity de­bate is be­ing closely watched by ad­vo­cates around the coun­try, who are look­ing to the home of Sil­i­con Val­ley to pass sweep­ing net neu­tral­ity pro­vi­sions that could drive mo­men­tum in other states or cre­ate pres­sure for Congress to en­act na­tion­wide pro­tec­tions.

“Net neu­tral­ity is not dead. It’s com­ing back with a vengeance,” said Evan Greer, deputy direc­tor of Fight for the Fu­ture, an ad­vo­cacy group that is push­ing to pre­serve net neu­tral­ity.

In­ter­net providers say they’ve pub­licly com­mit­ted to up­hold­ing the val­ues of net neu­tral­ity, but strict rules like Cal­i­for­nia’s would inhibit in­vest­ment in faster tech­nol­ogy. They say it’s un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect them to com­ply with in­ter­net rules that vary across the coun­try.

“Con­sumers ex­pect a sin­gle, na­tional ap­proach to keep­ing our in­ter­net open, not the con­fus­ing patch­work of con­flict­ing re­quire­ments passed to­day, Jonathan Spal­ter, pres­i­dent & CEO the broad­band in­dus­try group UST­ele­com, said in a state­ment.

The Cal­i­for­nia leg­is­la­tion “keeps the coun­try strapped into a roller coaster ride of state net neu­tral­ity reg­u­la­tions,” he said.

The mea­sure, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is likely to face a le­gal chal­lenge. The FCC has de­clared that states can­not pass their own net neu­tral­ity rules, though pro­po­nents of the Cal­i­for­nia leg­is­la­tion say that only Congress can tie Cal­i­for­nia’s hands.

“Pres­i­dent Trump didn’t ruin the in­ter­net. Pres­i­dent Trump didn’t change the in­ter­net,” said Melissa Me­len­dez, a Repub­li­can from Lake Elsi­nore in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. “You’re wad­ing into an area where you have no busi­ness be­ing.”

Six Repub­li­cans joined nearly all Democrats in sup­port­ing the leg­is­la­tion.

Net neu­tral­ity ad­vo­cates worry that, ab­sent rules pro­hibit­ing it, in­ter­net providers could cre­ate fast lanes and slow lanes that fa­vor their own sites and apps or make it harder for con­sumers to see con­tent from their com­peti­tors.

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