Published: Mon, September 03, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

California lawmakers pass toughest net neutrality law

California lawmakers pass toughest net neutrality law

The new bill follows a similar effort called Let Our Communities Adjust Late Night (or the LOCAL Act), also spearheaded by Wiener, which passed through the Senate but stalled in the California State Assembly past year. The senate voted to save net neutrality back in May after the Federal Communications Commission led by Trump-appointee Ajit Pai repealed Obama-era regulations previous year.

The announcement comes on the final day of the legislative session as lawmakers scrambled to pass dozens of bills addressing everything from the internet to smoking at state beaches.

The legislation is in response to the Republican-led FCC's move in December to repeal numerous existing net neutrality rules, which prohibited internet providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or from selling "fast lanes" so websites and other types of content can gain speedier access to consumers. It prohibits internet providers from charging access fees to websites to connect to their customers, and it bans certain types of "zero rating" offerings. Most state-level bills have just copied the text of the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules, leaving out critical protections.

Governors of six states have signed executive orders restoring elements of the net neutrality protections rescinded by the Trump administration, and state legislature in three others have successfully enacted proposals similar to the one being considered in California.

California could become the fourth state to approve net neutrality regulations if Brown signs the bill. In June, it became the first state to pass internet privacy legislation, giving consumer more control over their personal data.

"When California acts, the world pays attention", wrote Stanford Law School professor Barbara van Schewick following the vote, adding: "This bill ensures that Californians, not the ISPs they pay to get online, get to choose what websites and apps they use". He has not taken a public stance on it, according to policy analysts, but the bill passed both Democrat-dominated state chambers by wide margins. Supporters of net neutrality rules have been fighting the FCC's ruling on multiple fronts. It also stops internet service providers and wireless operators from blocking or throttling content that they don't agree with. It gave California internet users the ability to know what information a company like Facebook or Google was collecting, and how it was being used and shared with third parties.

The result of Friday's vote is a massive blow to an industry that has spent years combating efforts to curb its sovereignty over the delivery of online services.

Internet providers also argue it could lead to higher prices for consumers.

The law would be the strictest for internet providers in the United States, and put California at odds with the federal government. The stronger provisions were later restored.

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