Net Neutrality Bill Passes California Senate

Lawmakers in California's Senate Monday passed a bill that would require broadband providers to follow net neutrality principles.

Senate Bill 460 would prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. The measure also would prevent providers from unreasonably interfering with people's ability to access content, apps or services -- a prohibition that could make it illegal for carriers to exempt their own content from customers' data caps. California's Assembly hasn't yet passed a companion bill.

The California Senate's move comes around six weeks after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal nationwide net neutrality rules. The FCC's order also attempts to block states from creating or enforcing their own version of net neutrality regulations.

That order is currently facing a court challenge by 22 attorneys general, consumer groups and Mozilla. It's not yet clear whether judges will uphold any portion of the FCC's recent order, including the provisions that block state laws. Telecom expert Catherine Sandoval previously told MediaPost that the FCC's argument in favor of preempting state laws is "very problematic."

She said the FCC would have to argue that it has "occupied the field" of broadband by passing the types of regulations that could make it impossible for carriers to comply with state and federal rules at the same time. Here, by withdrawing regulations, the FCC has done the opposite of occupying the field, she said.

California isn't the only state attempting to mandate net neutrality. The governors of Montana and New York recently signed executive orders requiring carriers to follow net neutrality principles as a condition of obtaining contracts with state agencies. Other states, including Nebraska, Washington and Massachusetts, are considering passing their own open Internet laws.

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