Senator Wiener’s Net Neutrality Bill Passes Senate Energy Committee with Major Protections Intact

Senate Bill 822 will restore Obama-era internet protections that were repealed under Trump, including establishing brightline rules governing fast lanes and zero rating that will be enforced by the office of the Attorney General
April 17, 2018

Sacramento–  Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) bill to restore net neutrality in California passed its first legislative committee today. 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 passed by a final vote of 8-3.

On Tuesday, SB 822 also received a key endorsement when Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced support for the bill.

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 These protections were repealed by the FCC under President Trump.

“Today we took a great first step in our effort to protect net neutrality in California so that everyone has equal access on the internet,” said Senator Wiener. “Under President Obama, our country was moving in the right direction on guaranteeing an open internet, but the Trump-led FCC pulled the rug out from under the American people by repealing net neutrality protections. In California, we can lead the effort to clean up this mess and implement comprehensive, thorough internet protections that put California internet users and consumers first.”

In the committee, Senator Wiener took amendments that preserved the major protections of the bill in the wake of intense lobbying from the ISPs and telecom industry. These amendments established brightline rules around fast lanes and zero rating, and clarified the Attorney General’s role in enforcing the rules. The amendments eliminated the CPUC as having a role monitoring or enforcing the protections established under SB 822.

“The amendments crafted today with the committee maintain all key provisions of the bill intact,” said Senator Wiener. “The bill fully protects net neutrality in California. I’m very grateful to the committee and the chair for working with us and passing the bill.”

SB 822 has received broad support from public interest groups, small business organizations, internet start-ups, elected leaders, and tens of thousands of California residents. Tom Wheeler, who served as Chair of the FCC under President Obama in 2015, wrote the following in a letter also signed by two other former FCC Commissioners: “SB 822 steps in to protect Californians and their economy by comprehensively restoring the protections put in place in the 2015 net neutrality order.”

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.