Calif. lawmakers reach agreement on strict net neutrality legislation

Calif. lawmakers reach agreement on strict net neutrality legislation
© Greg Nash

California lawmakers have reached an agreement over net neutrality legislation that would implement some of the strongest state regulations since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed its own rules last year.

The bill, which only applies to consumers in California, would prohibit internet service providers from blocking, throttling or speeding up websites or applications. It would also require broadband companies that do business with the state to abide by net neutrality principles.

What sets the legislation apart from other state net neutrality laws and the now-defunct FCC rules is a ban on internet service providers “zero rating” services and websites that they own. Zero rating is a practice in which providers make it so that certain applications don’t count against customers’ data caps.

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That provision was included in a bill put forth by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) that passed the state Senate but was held up in the state Assembly.

The agreement announced Thursday would merge Wiener's bill with an earlier one put forth by state Sen. Kevin de León (D).

“After Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE’s FCC obliterated net neutrality, we stepped in to protect California residents and businesses and to ensure an open internet,” Wiener said in a statement Thursday. “For months, we have worked with a broad coalition to pass strong and enforceable net neutrality protections. As internet service providers and media companies like AT&T and Time Warner consolidate, net neutrality is more important than ever.”

The lawmakers said the bill’s final form will be introduced in the coming weeks and that the legislature has until the end of August to pass it.

If the bill is passed, it could face a court challenge from the broadband industry. The FCC’s order repealing the Obama-era rules forbade states from filling the void with their own regulations, though Democratic-led states have been defying that provision, laying the groundwork for a legal battle.

“If Donald Trump won’t stand up to powerful special interests to protect consumers, the State of California will,” De León said in a statement.