Sacramento – Today, Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) announced that they are joining their respective net neutrality bills – SB 822 (Wiener) and SB 460 (de Leon) – to form one unified legislative effort to pass strong net neutrality protections in California. The two bills are being formally linked to one another so that both must be signed into law for either to take effect. The two bills are also being amended to be complementary, creating one unified and robust net neutrality policy – standards that have been described as the “gold standard” for other states to follow.
In January, Senators de Leon and Wiener each introduced separate bills to establish net neutrality in California after the Trump-led FCC voted to abolish federal net neutrality protections. Since that time, as both SB 822 and SB 460 have moved forward through the Legislature and passed the Senate, the Senators have been in discussions about joining their efforts. In addition to linking the two bills, Senators de Leon and Wiener will sign on as joint authors to each other’s bill.
The two bills will be formally linked to one another through a process called “contingent enactment,” which means both must be signed into law for either to become effective. Both bills stand 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.
SB 822 and SB 460 will be heard together on Wednesday June 20, at 9:30 a.m., in the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). AT&T and other large internet service providers are engaging in a massive and expensive campaign to lobby members of the committee to kill or water down the bills. Specifically, they are pushing to remove key protections such as the ban on charging website owners “access fees” so that their websites are available to an ISPs’ subscribers and the ban on circumventing net neutrality protections at the point of interconnection.
According to Senator Wiener: “The internet is at the heart of our 21st century democracy and economy, and we must protect the internet with strong net neutrality protections. Particularly in light of the massive consolidation between internet service providers and media companies – most recently AT&T and Time Warner – we can’t just trust ISPs to allow equal internet access. We must have enforceable and comprehensive legal standards. And, given the federal government’s failure to protect net neutrality, California must step up to protect our residents and businesses. I’m thrilled to partner with Senator de Leon and our broad coalition to get this bill passed.”
According to Senator de Leon: “The Internet is now the catalyst in our society for growing our economy, engaging in the democratic process, and connecting with one another. It is an information equalizer, and everyone from farmworkers to financiers deserves fair access to it. That’s why it’s critical for California to set its own course and provide consumers with the nation’s strongest Net Neutrality protections.”
SB 822 will contain the same strong net neutrality protections and standards that exist in the current version of SB 822. Those standards will not be changed or watered down as part of the bill joinder. SB 822 will continue to prohibit blocking websites, speeding up or slowing down websites or whole classes of applications such as video, and charging websites for access to an ISP’s subscribers or for fast lanes to those subscribers. ISPs are also prohibited from circumventing these protections at the point of interconnection where data enters their networks.
Similarly, SB 822 bans ISPs from violating net neutrality by not counting the content and websites they own against subscribers’ data caps. This kind of abusive and anti-competitive “zero rating”, which leads to lower data caps for everyone, will be prohibited, while “zero-rating” plans that don’t harm competition are not banned. SB 822 will also continue to contain robust enforcement mechanisms.
SB 460 will be amended to focus on requiring ISPs that enter into public contracts adhere to net neutrality principles. This provision ensures that public entities only expend taxpayer funds on contracts with ISPs that comply with California’s comprehensive net neutrality protections.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a vocal supporter of bringing back the 2015 protections in California, applauded the joint effort: “At the California Department of Justice, we have been unwavering in our defense of net neutrality rules. Now that Senators Scott Wiener and Kevin de Leon are moving forward with a unified effort to preserve net neutrality in California, we are proud to offer our strong support. Our state is home to countless start-ups and technology giants alike. Net neutrality rules matter because every consumer has a right to access online content without interference or manipulation by their internet service provider. We will do what is necessary to protect that right.”
The effort to pass net neutrality in California is being opposed by AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and other large internet service providers – though it is supported by a number of smaller ISPs such as Sonic. The large ISPs are spending huge amounts of money on lobbyists, advertising, and astroturf organizing efforts to block net neutrality from moving forward in California. For example, an AT&T-funded front group called CALInnovates is paying for factually false online ads targeting members of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee, which hears the bill on Wednesday.
In contrast to the large ISPs’ corporate astroturf opposition campaign, a broad coalition of progressive, civil rights, business, nonprofit, and labor organizations has formed to pass strong net neutrality protections in California and is now expressing full support of the joint effort:
Eddie Kurtz, Courage Campaign President and Executive Director:
“Senators de Leon and Wiener have done California and the country a great service by combining their individual bills to re-establish Net Neutrality. Their courageous stand against some of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful companies in the country – AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon – is exactly the kind of leadership our communities need in Sacramento. We are confident that when Chairman Miguel Santiago and his fellow Assemblymembers vote on SB822 this week, they will not weaken the bill. We trust they will show similar strength and judgement by prioritizing the free flow of information in the 21st century over the profit-driven interests of giant corporations.”
Caitlin Vega, California Labor Federation Legislative Director:
“Working people deserve an open internet that isn’t subject to censorship by big corporations. That’s why net neutrality is so important. If corporations are able to block access to sites they don’t like, our freedoms are at risk. We thank Senators Wiener and de Leon for putting this measure forward and protecting access to information through an open internet that benefits us all.”
Tom Steyer, NextGen America President and Founder:
“The Trump Administration rescinded federal net neutrality rules governing the Internet and, by doing so, delivered it into the hands of powerful corporations without protecting our consumers. As the recent U.S. Senate vote shows, net neutrality is a bipartisan issue and everyone, regardless of income or where you live, deserves equal access to the Internet. This week, the State of California has the chance to show its leadership once again and stand up and protect consumers by reinstating strong net neutrality protections – it’s time to pass California Senate Bills 822 and 460.”
Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder of Reddit and Initialized Capital:
“I’m so pleased that state Senators Scott Wiener and Kevin de Leon have come together to defend the net neutrality protections that made it possible for me to start the country’s third most-visited website when I was just out of college and that will help support so many creators and entrepreneurs going forward.”
Dane Jasper, CEO and Co-Founder of Sonic.net, an internet-service provider:
“The internet should be open and equal to all. ISPs are the gatekeepers to the internet, and it is our responsibility to support policies that protect customers and foster fair competition in the marketplace. With the loss of the federal net neutrality protections repealed by the FCC, we now have an internet that favors large corporations, which will hurt smaller businesses and consumers. I fully support the effort by Senators Wiener and de Leon to lead California and the country in this fight to restore net neutrality.”
Jiggy Athilingam, Co-founder of Indivisible CA: StateStrong and Indivisible Project State & Local Policy Manager:
“California is now poised to pass the most comprehensive state-level net neutrality bill in the nation, and it’s thanks to the collaboration and leadership of Senators Wiener and de Leon. Indivisible is proud that 30 of our California-based groups joined together with a coalition of progressives to help advocate for this collaborative effort. In a climate where we are unable to depend on the federal government to protect the free and open internet, it is a relief that our state legislators are doing their jobs and listening to the concerns of their constituents over those of the wealthy corporate ISPs. We hope that the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee will follow the leadership of Senators Wiener and de Leon and quickly pass SB 822 this week while maintaining its critical protections.”
Senator Scott Wiener