Net Neutrality (SIGNED)


SB 822 by Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco would restore key Obama-era internet net neutrality regulations rolled back by the Trump administration. The goal: To prevent internet service providers from blocking, slowing or favoring content, charging extra for fast lanes, collecting new fees from apps as a condition of internet access and favoring preferred apps by exempting them from consumers’ data caps if that means rival startups and small businesses will be harmed.


Technology companies say net neutrality makes the internet a level playing field, particularly for smaller companies and startups, and that it deters censorship and protects innovation. Advocates argue consumers should be free to choose what they access, without interference from the internet service providers that control the pipeline. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and several former FCC commissioners are among the supporters, along with the Writers Guild of America and American Civil Liberties Union.


AT&T, Verizon, TMobile, and other broadband interests and internet service providers say the internet should be governed by a single national policy, not a state-by-state patchwork, and argue that they do not throttle speeds or interfere with access. They also say this measure would add to their costs and thus prevent them from upgrading their equipment and keeping prices low for consumers. Ideological opponents of net neutrality say California is overreaching and service providers should be able to upcharge for faster service if there is a market for it.


Access to the internet and the infrastructure that supports it has been central to the debate over how best to protect consumers and ensure fair competition, and California’s Silicon Valley has been at the forefront. Backlash to the Trump administration’s rollback of net neutrality rules imposed by the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama era has already prompted federal litigation. A California net neutrality law is expected to face legal challenges, too.


Signed by Gov. Brown on September 30, 2018.

But within hours of that signature, the Trump administration filed a lawsuit to block it, contending that the state’s action was “unlawful and anti-consumer” because it is in conflict with the federal government’s position and imposes burdensome regulations on the Internet. “Once again the California Legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

—Antoinette Siu