California Net Neutrality Law Passes Assembly, Now Back To Senate

After months of debate and a stop-and-start journey through the California legislature, the state’s Assembly on Thursday passed the country’s most far-reaching net neutrality bill by an overwhelming 61-18 vote, according to a San Jose Mercury News report

The bill is designed to replace the federal rules, in place since 2015, that were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission effective this past June. Net neutrality rules mandate that internet service providers must treat all online data traffic equally, and may not block or slow down traffic from some sites while favoring others.

California’s state Senate passed the bill in May, but the bill must now go back to the Senate Friday because the version passed by the Assembly differs somewhat from the version that the Senate approved by a 26-12 vote on May 31.

The legislation must then be signed by California Governor Jerry Brown, who has yet to take a public position on the bill, or on the issue of net neutrality in general.

The bill, SB 822, has so far survived lobbying efforts by telecommunications companies, and even a “robo-call” campaign targeting senior citizens in California, threatening that the bill will raise their cell phone bills by 30 percent and slow data speeds—both claims that have been debunked, as reported this week.

In addition to including more forceful protections for an open internet, the California bill would have a far reaching effect because many major internet companies have home offices in the state, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as the major film and TV studios who have come increasingly to rely on internet streaming to distribute their content, as reported

The bill, assuming it becomes law, “provides a legal avenue for many content providers headquartered in California” to challenge any discrimination against their data by internet service providers, Forbes reported.

Republicans in the Assembly on Thursday argued against the net neutrality bill, saying that it would cause internet congestion and “censorship.”

“You can’t watch a Netflix movie because your neighbor down the street is downloading eight porn movies,” Republican Travis Allen claimed, in the Assembly debate, calling net neutrality “government censorship.”

California would not be the first state to enact its own net neutrality legislation. Washington passed a net neutrality bill in February, and Vermont and Oregon followed suit.

But California’s bill would include the toughest protections for net neutrality, outlawing what are known as “zero rating” plans, which allow ISPs to exempt their own data from customer data limits, in effect favoring their traffic over competitors’ traffic—a practice that advocates say defeats the purpose of net neutrality.

Photo By SlowKing / Wikimedia Commons