Senator Wiener’s Net Neutrality Bill Gains Broad Support in Advance of First Hearing

April 12, 2018

Sacramento–  Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) bill to restore net neutrality in California has gained key support from elected leaders, organizations, businesses, and almost 53,000 California residents. These supporters include Tom Wheeler, who served as Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama and wrote the 2015 Open Internet Order. Senate Bill 822 puts California at the national forefront of ensuring an open internet by establishing 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.

SB 822 restores the protections put in place by the FCC under President Obama to ensure an open internet. These protections were repealed by the FCC under President Trump.

SB 822 is scheduled to be heard in the Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee on Tuesday, April 17. Supporters for SB 822 include:

  • Former Federal Communications Commission members Tom Wheeler, Michael Copps, and Gloria Tristani. Wheeler, who served as Chair of the FCC Commission under President Barack Obama, wrote the 2015 Open Internet Order. The three commissioners wrote in a letter:“SB 822 steps in to protect Californians and their economy by comprehensively restoring the protections put in place in the 2015 net neutrality order, including the brightline rules; the general conduct rule; and the safeguards against circumventing the rules via interconnection practices.”
  • San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and Emeryville Mayor John Bauters, who wrote in a letter: “Senator Wiener’s bill could not come at a better time, as the Trump-designated FCC’s 2017 net neutrality repeal will soon go into effect, leaving Americans unprotected from interference by their ISPs. As California cities expressed to the FCC throughout 2017, we rightly fear that without regulation, ISPs will abuse their power anti-competitively in ways that harm consumers. Without a fix to the current administration’s repeal of net neutrality, there is a risk that ISPs will have even more power to make the Internet less affordable for our residents and our businesses.”
  • A coalition of 59 start-ups and internet companies based in California wrote: In the wake of the federal repeal, which will leave U.S. Internet users without meaningful net neutrality protections for the first time in a more than a decade, it is critical that states take the lead to craft their own net neutrality rules. Without net neutrality protections, startups will be at the mercy of incumbent ISPs and face insurmountable disadvantages when competing with larger, more established companies that can pay for better access to users.
  • The American Sustainable Business Council, a coalition of small businesses that support net neutrality wrote in a letter: While only a small handful of companies sell Internet access, nearly all companies in California buy it –including ours. The rollback of the 2015 net neutrality protections would be disastrous for the country’s business community, and SB 822 comprehensively reinstates those protections for all Californians and California businesses. Without SB 822, Internet providers would gain new powers to steer businesses and customers one way or another.
  • 52,828 Californians who signed letters supporting SB 822 and urging its passage.
  • More than 40 public interest groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, Courage Campaign, CALPIRG, Color of Change, Common Cause, Consumers Union, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Public Knowledge, Greenling Institute, and The Utility Reform Network (TURN), wrote in a letter:  We urge you and your colleagues to resist attempts by ISPs or others to amend SB 822, as we fear such tactics will only serve to dilute a full restoration of net neutrality in California. Net neutrality protections work as a whole. Removing some protections makes the whole regime meaningless by allowing ISPs to reach the same result in a different way.

SB 822 is co-authored by Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Connie Leyva (D-Chino), 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 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 prohibits 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.