California passes strongest US net neutrality law to pushback against government rules rollback

Lawmakers pass bill viewed as even more consumer-friendly than original Obama-era measures

Cecilia Kang
Saturday 01 September 2018 13:16 BST
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What is net neutrality?

California lawmakers passed a bill on Friday that would guarantee full and equal access to the internet – a principle known as net neutrality – in the biggest pushback yet to the federal government’s rollback of rules last year.

The California bill is viewed as even stronger and more consumer-friendly than the original measures carried out by the Obama administration and abolished in December by the Trump-era Federal Communications Commission. It is sure to set up a fight between broadband providers, which say strict rules would increase their costs, and consumer groups, which seek to ensure that all traffic on the internet is treated equally.

“When Donald Trump’s FCC decided to take a wrecking ball to net neutrality protections, we knew that California had to step in to ensure our residents have access to a free and open internet,” state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat and one of the bill’s authors, said in a statement.

Lawmakers in California are seeking to bar internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast from blocking or slowing down the transmission of web traffic to the state’s broadband customers. The bill, which heads to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law, would also prohibit promotions of free streaming for apps, a practice that can stifle the businesses of other websites that are not part of such promotions.

For consumers, the bill would ensure that an internet user would not be charged extra for access to certain websites. Consumers would also be guaranteed that the streams of videos from any site like Netflix, Vudu or Hulu would be delivered to a mobile device or an internet television at the same speeds and quality.

California would become the fourth state to create a net neutrality law since the federal rollback, but it is the most significant.

Broadband providers are expected to sue if the bill becomes law, citing a provision in federal rules that prohibits states from reinstating net neutrality rules.

“The internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches,” Jonathan Spalter, president of the US Telecom Association, said.

Similar laws have been passed in Washington, Vermont and Oregon.

The New York Times

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