Senator Wiener Announces Strongest Net Neutrality Policy Proposal in the Country

Amendments to SB 822 set comprehensive policies to protect every Internet user in California from data manipulation and economic discrimination to ensure open access to the Internet
March 14, 2018

Sacramento – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced new policy details to his bill to preserve net neutrality. Senate Bill 822 puts California at the national forefront of ensuring an open internet. It establishes comprehensive and enforceable net neutrality standards to ensure that all California residents have the right to choose whether, when, and for what purpose they use the internet.

Senator Wiener introduced an early summary version of SB 822 in January at the beginning of the California Legislative session, and has been meeting with civil rights and privacy advocates, public policy experts and lawyers, former state and federal commissioners, and business leaders to craft the strongest and most comprehensive set of net neutrality regulations in the country. Senator Wiener and his staff have also been speaking with leaders from other states that are exploring comprehensive net neutrality protections, including New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.

On Tuesday, Senator Wiener introduced detailed amendments to SB 822 that fully lay out his net neutrality proposal. SB 822 applies its net neutrality standards to any ISP that serves a customer in California.

At its core, SB 822 stands for the basic proposition that the role of internet service providers (ISPs) is to provide neutral access to the internet, not to pick winners and losers by deciding (based on financial payments or otherwise) which websites or applications will be easy or hard to access, which will have fast or slow access, and which will be blocked entirely.

Specifically, SB 822 prohibits any practice that hinders or manipulates consumer access to the Internet to favor certain types of content, services, or devices over others. This includes prohibiting all of the following: blocking or speeding up or slowing down of favored data, paid prioritization, charging services (whether businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy organizations, etc.) access fees to reach certain consumers, and economic discrimination practices that distort consumer choice.

SB 822 also prohibit misleading marketing practices and enacts strong disclosure requirements to better inform consumers. SB 822 requires that any ISP that contracts with the State of California, receives public infrastructure grants to build out broadband service, or applies for or holds a state franchise for video service must comply with these standards.   

“An open internet is essential to maintaining our democracy, growing our economy, protecting consumers, and preserving critical health, safety, and energy services,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “Internet service providers play a key role in allowing people to access the internet, but ISPs must not be allowed to decide who can access what websites or applications. Without net neutrality, ISPs have the power to manipulate which business, media, nonprofit, or political websites are accessible and by whom. SB 822 contains strong, comprehensive, and enforceable policies that will position California as a leader in the fight for net neutrality. Over the last two months, I have had many conversations with elected leaders across the country who share our goal of protecting net neutrality in the wake of the disastrous FCC decision. I will continue to engage with other states on this issue. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature, including Senator Kevin de Leon, to pass this legislation here in California.”

SB 822 is supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU California, Courage Campaign, and CALPIRG. SB 822 is co-authored by Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Bill Monning (D-Carmel), and Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco.)

"At a time when special interests in D.C. are busy eliminating and blocking consumer protections, it's critical that California leads the nation in safeguarding consumer protections," said Senator Bill Dodd. "Standing up for net neutrality is about protecting freedom of choice for consumers and economic opportunity for small businesses. I hope that other state's will follow California and use every tool at their disposal to fight for net neutrality."

"Net neutrality ensures fair access to the Internet without having to pay extra charges," said Senator Nancy Skinner.

"The Trump Administration's repeal of net neutrality is a reckless giveaway to big corporations, is terrible for our democracy and will be the end of a free and open internet," said Senator Mike McGuire. "If Washington D.C. won't protect an internet free of favor, California certainly will."

“The ability of everyone to openly access and utilize the internet is threatened by the decision of the Trump Administration and his political cronies to eliminate the Obama-era net neutrality protections,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “Now, the privileged few will be able to effectively discriminate as to online access.  We in California refuse to sit idly by and allow this protection to be taken from us. Open access is equal access.”

“I am proud to lead the fight for Net Neutrality as a principal co-author of SB 822,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta. “The Internet has become an indispensable pillar of modern life. All Californians regardless of their income deserve open and equal access where no one is shut out from information and or content critical to their daily lives and livelihoods.”

“The internet should be free and open to all,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “If Trump Administration is going to prioritize corporate profits over the good of the public, it is up to states like California to protect the democratic principles of free speech and accessibility on which the internet was built.”

The new language introduced on Tuesday set the forth the following policies under SB 822:

Establishes net neutrality protections by defining a set of practices. All of the following policies will be set under SB 822:

  • Prohibits blocking, throttling, or interfering with any content, service, or device based on the nature of the content or type of service
  • Requires that all data traffic be Application Agnostic – no varying of access between types of applications (one streaming website faster than another) or classes of applications (video streaming faster than phone service)
  • Prohibits charging access fees to services to reach consumers, which favors services that can pay and stifles competition for small businesses or new services
  • Prohibits engaging in paid prioritization, which is when an ISP favors certain data over other data in exchange for compensation or to benefit an affiliated service
  • Prohibits engaging in misleading or deceptive marketing and advertising  practices
  • Prohibits offering economic discrimination practices such as zero-rated data products, which distort and manipulate consumer choice by subsidizing favored content so that it doesn’t count against any data cap in a customer plan.
  • Preserves the right of the consumer to choose whether, when, and for what purpose they use the internet, once they have access to it
  • Allows ISPs to make adjustments to their service that may be in violation of the above protections, provided those adjustments are for purely technical reasons. These adjustments must be reasonably Application Agnostic, i.e. apply evenly to all types of web traffic, and be tailored to a technical need, not an economic benefit.

Creates comprehensive compliance requirements. SB 822 requires that any ISP must meet the standards of net neutrality if that provider:

  • Serves an end user (a customer) in California, which is any individual or entity that uses a broadband internet access service
  • Has a contract with the State of California. This could include when a state agency or office signs a contract for broadband access in their offices.
  • Applies for or holds a state franchise agreement to provide video service under the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (DIVCA)
  • Receives state funds to build infrastructure for broadband communications

Charges the Attorney General’s Office with enforcement of these provisions

SB 822 will have its first committee hearing in early April in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee.  

SB 822 Language: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB822

SB 822 Amendments Fact Sheet: http://sd11.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd11.senate.ca.gov/files/sb_822_mid_march_amendments.pdf