Senator Wiener to Introduce Net Neutrality Legislation Today as California Legislature Convenes After Recess

Bill calls for protections to maintain a free and open internet after FCC repeals federal net neutrality protections
January 3, 2018

Sacramento – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) will introduce legislation to establish net neutrality protections in California. This is the first day the California Legislature is in session since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality on December 14 of last year.  At that time, Senator Wiener announced he would introduce legislation to require net neutrality in California.


Senator Wiener is joined by principal co-authors Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Bill Monning (D-Carmel), and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and principal co-authors Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), and Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo). Senator Wiener’s bill is supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CALPIRG, and the Courage Campaign.

“Net neutrality is essential to our 21st century democracy,” said Senator Wiener. “We won’t let the Trump-led FCC dismantle our right to a free and open internet, and we won’t let them create a system where internet providers can favor web sites and services based on who pays more money. It’s terrible for consumers, for small businesses, for innovation, and for the free flow of information in our country. As states across the country explore how to maintain an open internet, California can and must lead the charge to protect net neutrality. I look forward to working on this bill in the coming months with my co-authors, advocates, leaders from other states, technology companies, and anyone who cares about the future of the internet.”

Specifically, Senator Wiener’s bill will do the following:

  • Regulate business practices to require net neutrality
  • Condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality
  • Require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure
  • Condition the right to attach small cell or other broadband wireless communications to utility poles on adherence to net neutrality

In February 2015, the FCC created a net neutrality order that reclassified fixed and mobile internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That order prevented discrimination among web sites or services by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - blocking websites or creating a slow lane and a fast lane. On December 14, the FCC eliminated this order and thus gave ISPs the authority to manipulate internet traffic in their networks, including blocking access or slowing down traffic to specific sites. The FCC’s action included a provision - which is likely unenforceable - to attempt to preempt states from regulating network neutrality and broadband privacy.

"The Internet belongs to the people, not to big corporations trying to squeeze every last penny out of consumers," said Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director of the California based Courage Campaign. "Losing the open Internet would be a tremendous loss of human potential, and Courage Campaign enthusiastically stands behind Senator Wiener’s efforts to protect it in one of the nation’s hubs of innovation." 

Currently California does not have its own regulations on net neutrality – we have deferred to the federal rules. Senator Wiener’s legislation will establish net neutrality regulations in California. Although the FCC included in its order a purported preemption of state net neutrality rules, the FCC likely does not have the power to preempt state action on this issue, per a 2006 federal court of appeals ruling in a different broadband context. Senator Wiener previously announced his intention to introduce net neutrality regulations in December, on the day the FCC repealed net neutrality. At that time, he was joined in this effort by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CALPIRG, and the American Civil Liberties Union, who stated the following:

“The FCC’s complete abandonment of its responsibilities to protect the free and open Internet will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in Internet policy history,” said Ernesto Falcon, Legislative Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “In light of the complete absence of federal protections, we absolutely must have state laws fill the void on both privacy and network neutrality.”

“ISPs shouldn't be able to pick winners and losers online, or give their own services an unfair advantage over their competitors,” said Emily Rusch, Executive Director of CALPIRG. “If Congress won't protect net neutrality nationwide, then California should use its considerable influence to protect its own residents.”

“As the epicenter of technological innovation, California has a special responsibility to ensure that the internet remains free and open” said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director for the ACLU of California. “Now, more than ever, Californians expect their policymakers and technology leaders to protect access to the internet, information, and the truth. The future of a free and open internet – and our democracy – depends on it.”