Senator Wiener’s Net Neutrality Bill Clears Final Senate Policy Committee

April 25, 2018

Sacramento–  Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) bill to restore net neutrality in California passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Senate Bill 822 restores the net neutrality protections put in place by the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama in 2015. These protections were repealed by the FCC under President Trump. 

SB 822 establishes brightline rules around fast lanes and zero rating, and charges the Attorney General with enforcing these rules. These net neutrality standards will ensure that all California residents have the right to choose whether, when, and for what purpose they use the internet.

SB 822 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 5-2 with Senators Hannah Beth-Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), Bill Monning (D-Carmel), Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), and Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) in support. SB 822 previously passed the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee by a vote of 8-3.  The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“California can – and must – step up to re-establish the Obama-era net neutrality rules to protect consumers and our democracy,” said Senator Wiener. “Yesterday, the Trump Administration’s repeal of net neutrality went into effect, leaving people all across our country vulnerable to internet access manipulation by corporations looking to benefit shareholders and bottom lines. The good news is that SB 822 has support from a diverse and growing coalition, and we can win the fight to bring back net neutrality for California residents.” 

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. Last week, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced support for the bill. Tom Wheeler, who served as Chair of the FCC under President Obama in 2015, wrote the following in a letter 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.

Coverage of SB 822

LA Times: California’s plan to protect net neutrality will shield consumers from telecom bullies, by Michael Hiltzik 

“When federal regulators decide to not do their jobs, the states have to step in. Now that the big ISPs got what they wanted in Washington, D.C., it's up to Sacramento to show they should have been more careful about what they wished for.”

Mercury News: Why California must pass net neutrality legislation by the Editorial Board 

“Wiener’s bill contains the strongest protections against such abusive practices of any state that has passed or is considering net neutrality laws. The San Francisco Democrat’s legislation encourages creativity and innovation by ensuring that small businesses and startups essential for California’s economy be able to compete with the likes of Netflix.”

San Francisco Chronicle: If FCC won’t regulate Internet, California should by the Editorial Board 

“The emerging patchwork of state regulations being lamented by the industry is a direct result of its successful lobbying to undo FCC rules that applied nationwide. With online abuse and manipulation coming under ever more scrutiny, the federal retreat looks even more unacceptable in retrospect.”