Lawmakers Reconcile On California Net Neutrality Measure

Jul 5, 2018

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio / File

A couple of weeks after a state assemblyman gutted a California net neutrality bill over the objections of its author, the two announced a deal to restore the measure’s restrictions on Internet providers.

Rather than a compromise agreement, state Sen. Scott Wiener, the bill’s author, says his bill will once again include all of the major provisions that the Assembly committee removed last month.

“We didn’t give up any of the key protections for net neutrality,” Wiener said.

According to lawmakers who struck the deal, the bill will once again ban internet providers such as AT&T and Comcast from charging websites fees to reach customers or from incentivizing certain companies’ content by exempting it from data caps.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago chaired the committee that stripped both of those provisions, after objections from internet providers. Santiago and Wiener, who exchanged sharp words at the bill’s hearing, depicted the dispute as arising from the committee’s deadline to act.

“We sat down right after that and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to work on this and get it right.’ This is where we’re at now,” Santiago said.

He also suggested the rewritten bill could better withstand an expected court challenge from the federal government, should it become law, although none of the lawmakers would point to specific changes that could help the legislation withstand legal scrutiny.

The measure’s introduction followed the Federal Communication Commission’s rejection of Obama-era net neutrality rules. The commission has asserted that the federal government has the right to regulate the internet, not states.

The deal will also incorporate state Sen. Kevin de León’s competing net neutrality measure. Wiener and de León have sought to link their bills, amending de León’s so it would ban state agencies from contracting with internet providers who do not practice net neutrality. Santiago’s committee had rejected that linkage, as well.

The lawmakers say they will release the new bill language next month, when the Legislature returns from its recess.