Net neutrality proponents are urging California lawmakers to move forward with a bill that would restore open internet rules in the state.
The measure (SB 822), introduced earlier this year by state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic, and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. Those prohibitions were all imposed by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission in 2015, but repealed last year by the Republican-controlled agency.
Weiner's proposed measure also would restrict Internet service providers' ability to exempt some material from consumers' data caps. The Obama-era FCC voted to take a case-by-case approach to those types of billing schemes. A Senate committee is scheduled to take up the bill on April 17.
Net neutrality advocates say the rules are necessary to prevent broadband providers from engaging in censorship, and from harming competitors. But current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the former regulations were too "heavy handed," and depressed investment.
The California proposal has picked up support from numerous net neutrality proponents, including former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
"These protections are essential to our economy and democracy," Wheeler, along with former FCC Commissioners Gloria Tristani and Michael Copps, writes in an April 8 letter to California lawmakers. "SB 822 steps in to protect Californians and their economy by comprehensively restoring the protections put in place in the 2015 net neutrality order."
A coalition of advocacy groups including Center for Democracy & Technology, Fight for the Future and Public Knowledge also urged California lawmakers to support the bill.
"Net neutrality ensures that competition and the free market, not backroom agreements and self-dealing by ISPs, determine winners and losers online, and that all voices, including those of speakers without deep pockets, have a fair chance to be heard online," the groups write.
So far, seven states have taken steps to restore net neutrality rules since the FCC's repeal last December. In five states -- New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii and Vermont -- governors signed executive orders requiring state agencies to enter into contracts only with broadband providers that promise to follow net neutrality principles. Oregon recently enacted a law to that effect.
The state of Washington passed a more comprehensive net neutrality law that prohibits broadband providers operating in the state from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.
But the broadband industry has vowed to challenge the state efforts in court. The providers argue that broadand service shouldn't be subject to state-by-state laws.
When the FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality rules, it also voted to block states from passing their own versions of the regulations. It's not yet clear whether that prohibition on state laws is enforceable.