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California Joins New York and Montana in Defying Net Neutrality Repeal

The California Senate passed a bill that prohibits internet providers from "blocking lawful content."

Patrick CaughillFebruary 1st 2018

Preserving Net Neutrality

California has just joined New York and Montana in resisting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality. Lawmakers introduced two bills to the California State Senate that would force service providers to continue treating all data on the internet the same way, without discriminating content. Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the first bill, which is still being drafted. However the second bill, introduced by Sen. Kevin de León, has already passed with a vote of 21-12 and is moving forward to the California State Assembly.

Image Credit: Jeff Turner/Flickr
Image Credit: Jeff Turner/Flickr.

Sen. de León’s bill prohibits home and mobile internet service providers (ISPs) from “blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.” It also bans what’s known as throttling, or the “paid prioritization, or providing preferential treatment of some internet traffic to any internet customer.”

Should it become law, the bill would preserve net neutrality for Californians, setting up another obstacle for ISPs that could take advantage of the FCC’s recent repeal. Also, the bill prohibits companies from using deceptive marketing “that misrepresent[s] the treatment of Internet traffic or content to its customers,” making it more difficult for ISPs to hide unfavorable changes from consumers.

Executive Versus Legislative Might

New York and Montana took a different tact in their effort’s to fight the repeal. Both state governors passed executive orders prohibiting any ISP with government contracts from enacting policies that were previously prohibited by the net neutrality rules. California’s solution is one step beyond that; the closest any state legislature has come to reinstating net neutrality.

California’s bill also differs from the two executive orders in that it more directly defies the FCC ruling. The proposed law would force ISPs to follow net neutrality rules, regardless of whether or not the company has a government contract. But there is a provision in the FCC ruling that prevents state and local governments from enacting laws to preserve net neutrality.

Legal advisors to the New York and Montana governors explained that an executive order regulating contracts with ISPs is a means of circumventing that FCC provision. Either way both executive orders and California’s legislation, should it pass, will likely face lawsuits of their own.

It seems like the FCC is facing opposition on all sides. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently joined with nearly two dozen states to sue the FCC over the ruling. It’s undoubtedly a volatile time in the battle to restore net neutrality, and internet providers will be hard-pressed to make any drastic changes to their services during these uncertain times.

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