California is Trying to Bring Back Net Neutrality, But the Debate is Complicated

January 22, 2018

Los Angeles Times
By Jazmine Ulloa

California state lawmakers are angling for another fight with the Trump administration, this time to revive federal net neutrality rules that they say are crucial to a fair, open and free internet.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) has introduced legislation that would task a state agency with establishing new regulations, making it unlawful for broadband companies to block or limit access to internet services in California. Through his own bill, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is working with a coalition of lawmakers and tech advocates to craft new net neutrality rules of their own.

Despite the dueling approaches, the two prominent Democrats have pledged to work together. Their proposals face heavy opposition from the telecom industry. And supporters say neither effort will be enough if the state does not also resuscitate federal rules to protect the privacy of internet customers.

"If the idea is, 'I want people to go wherever they want on the internet in California,' they won't do that if they think their information is being monetized and privatized by visiting certain sites," said Ernesto Falcon, legal counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The net neutrality rules, put in place under then-President Obama in February 2015, barred broadband and wireless companies such as AT&T Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications from selling faster delivery of some data, slowing speeds for certain video streams and other content, and discriminating against legal material online.

The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to roll those rules back, with Republicans calling for an end to the utility-like oversight of internet service providers (ISPs). 

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