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

January 3, 2018

Sacramento – Today Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 822 to establish net neutrality protections in California. This is the first day the California Legislature is in session since the Federal Communications Commission repealed Net Neutrality on December 14 of last year.  At that time, Senator Wiener declared he would introduce legislation to require net neutrality in California.

Senator Wiener is joined by Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Bill Monning (D-Carmel), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburgh), Nanncy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and principal co-uthors Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo), and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco.) Senator Wiener’s bill is also supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, 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 an open internet and 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, 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 with my co-authors, advocates, leaders from other states, and anyone who cares about the future of the internet in the coming months.”

Specifically, SB 822 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 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 which reclassified fixed and mobile internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This prevented improper discrimination of certain web sites or services by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). On December 14 of last year, the FCC eliminated this order, giving ISPs the authority to manipulate internet traffic in their networks, including by blocking access or slowing down traffic to certain web sites. It is also passed rules to attempt to preempt states from regulating network neutrality and broadband privacy.

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. There are strong arguments that states have the right to protect internet access. 

Senator Wiener previously announced his intention to introduce net neutrality regulations in December, on the day when the FCC repealed Net Neutrality. At the time, he was joined in this effort by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, CALPIRG, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The FCC completely abandoning 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.”