The California Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee gutted the net neutrality legislation passed by the state Senate. Critics believe that Committee’s chairman caved in to the demands of AT&T and other internet service providers (ISPs).
On Thursday, the Committee eliminated key provisions of Senate Bill 822, which many considers the “gold standard” for states seeking to protect net neutrality. The legislation restores net neutrality protections repealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Senate Bill 822 prohibits ISPs from blocking or throttling and favoring certain types of content. The legislation also prevents ISPs from engaging in paid prioritization, charging services access fees and economic discrimination. It also prohibits ISPs from engaging in application-specific pricing or zero-rating programs and deceptive marketing practices.
Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, the chairman of the Communications and Conveyance Committee made the amendments to the net neutrality bill.
He removed a section that prohibits ISPs from engaging in application specific differential pricing or zero rating. Santiago also eliminated a section that requires ISPs to maintain enough bandwidth at network interconnection points.
Santiago is concerned that the net neutrality bill went too far and the industry could challenge it in court.
According to him, “Make no mistake. The industry supports Trump’s actions and will do everything they can to sue and block implementation of net neutrality in California. When that happens, we will fight back.”
Passing a weak net neutrality bill is a wrong direction for California
Santiago’s critics alleged that he watered down the legislation because the industry lobbyists donated significant amount of money to his campaign. He denied those allegations.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, the author of the net neutrality bill condemned the Committee for making hostile amendments.
In a statement, Wiener said, “What happened today was outrageous… These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only. In negotiations leading up to the committee hearing, I expressed a willingness to negotiate the provisions of the bills – and I remain willing to negotiate.”
In addition, Wiener emphasized that he “can’t support a weak version of net neutrality that eliminates critical provisions.”
Furthermore, he said, “California should lead by example and enact the strongest net neutrality protections in the country. Passing a weak, neutered bill is exactly the wrong direction for our state.”
On the other hand, Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future slammed the Committee particularly Santiago and his fellow Democrats who voted for the amendments. He noted that AT&T is a top donor to Santiago’s campaign.
Greer said they are the first Democrats “to actively help the Trump administration dismantle net neutrality.”
Additionally, Greer said, “The level of corruption we just witnessed literally makes me sick to my stomach. These California democrats will go down in history as among the worst corporate shills that have ever held elected office. Californians should rise up and demand that at their Assembly members represent them. The actions of this committee today are an attack not just on net neutrality, but on our democracy.”