Katharine Trendacosta: California’s Net Neutrality Bill Is Strong Again Because You Spoke Out

July 9, 2018 – After a hearing that stripped California’s gold standard net neutrality bill of much of its protections, California legislators have negotiated new amendments that restore the vast majority of those protections to the bill. The big ISPs and their money did not defeat the voices of the many, many people who want and need a free and open Internet.

On June 20, the Communications and Conveyance Committee of the California Assembly, after having rejected proposed amendments to move Senator Scott Wiener’s S.B. 822 and Senator Kevin de León’s S.B. 460 forward as a package, also voted to gut S.B. 822’s strong net neutrality protections. It was a move that resulted in a hollowed-out version of S.B. 822 that left huge loopholes for ISPs.

Since then, there’s been an outcry from Team Internet in California, making clear how important effective, strong net neutrality protections are. Senator Wiener, Senator de León, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance that voted on the watered-down bill, have all come to an agreement that once again makes California’s proposed legislation the strongest net neutrality bill in the country.

The willingness of Assemblymember Santiago to listen to his constituents’ opinions and realize their needs, as opposed to those of large ISPs like AT&T, is laudable. And the resulting agreement puts California net neutrality back on track.

As was initially proposed by Senator Wiener and Senator de Leon, both net neutrality bills will now become a package. The ban on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization remains—paid prioritization has been a particular target of misleading ISP arguments. The ban on certain kinds of zero rating—the kinds that lead consumers to services that ISPs want them to use rather than giving them choices—also remains. And so does the ban on access fees, which means ISPs will not be able to get around these protections by charging fees at the places where data enters their networks.

This is what real net neutrality looks like. And it all happened because people spoke out. You sent emails, called offices, crowdfunded a billboard—all of that was heard. People’s voices trumped company money this time.

The fight’s not over: these bills still need to be passed by the California legislature and signed by the governor. So keep telling them to vote for S.B. 822.

Katharine Trendacosta is policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org). Follow on Twitter: @k_trendacosta