At the beginning of this month, California’s Senate passed SB 822 -- a net neutrality bill that state senators have deemed the “gold standard” of state-level protections. Governor Jerry Brown has until the end of this month to sign the bill into law.
In the interim, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai called the state’s new policy “illegal” and said it “poses a risk to the rest of the country.”
However, California Senator and author of the net neutrality bill Scott Wiener said that the new initiatives are “necessary and legal because Chairman Pai abdicated his responsibility to ensure an open internet,” according to a press release.
“Unlike Pai’s FCC, California isn’t run by the big telecom companies,” Wiener added. “Pai can take whatever potshots at California he wants. The reality is that California is the world’s innovation capital, and like the crony capitalism promoted by the Trump administration, California understands exactly what it takes to foster an open innovation economy with a level playing field.”
What the bill does
Under SB 822, internet service providers (ISPs) are prohibited from blocking or throttling lawful traffic. It also doesn’t allow websites to be charged for access to an ISP’s subscribers or for fast lanes to those subscribers.
The bill also prevents companies like AT&T (which is an ISP and a content provider) from not counting the content and the websites they own against subscribers’ data caps. Moreover, the proposed bill bans ISPs from getting around these protections at the point where data enters their networks and then charging access fees to reach ISP customers.
To Pai, the bill is allowing “government control of the internet.” He went on to call California’s bill “a radical, anti-consumer internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015.”
Pai said under SB 822, Californians will be prevented from “buying many free-data plans” that “allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits.”
However, Senator Wiener sees it differently. He believes the law would ensure “that we as individuals get to decide where we go on the internet, rather than having internet service providers decide for us.”
He added that “big telecom companies and cable companies can’t force us to get our information only from favored websites.”
Wiener also mentioned Pai’s failure to address Verizon’s recent throttling of Santa Clara County firefighters’ wireless network during the fires in California. The firefighters were unable to provide emergency services because Verizon throttled the network until the fire department agreed to upgrade to a more expensive plan.
Wiener said that Pai's lack of action on the matter speaks volumes and stymies his criticims of California's proposed rules.