California Passes Sweeping Net Neutrality Rules

Broadband providers in California will be prohibited from blocking or throttling traffic, charging higher fees for fast-lane service, and from exempting their own video streams from consumers' data caps, if a bill passed late last week is signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

The law, SB 822, which restores the Obama-era open internet rules, passed 27-12 in the California Senate and 61-18 in the Assembly. State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who sponsored the bill, calls it "the strongest net neutrality protections in the country."

Advocacy group Fight for the Future called the bill's passage "a major victory for Internet activists who harnessed massive public outcry to pass the bill and a resounding defeat for big telecom companies like AT&T and Comcast."



The organization also predicted that other states will follow California's lead if the bill is signed.

Industry group USTelecom -- which has vowed to sue states that pass their own net neutrality laws -- is urging Brown to veto the measure. "The internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches," the organization stated.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which explicitly prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling data and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. Those repealed rules also contained a "general conduct" standard that had been interpreted as prohibiting some forms of zero-rating -- or exempting material from consumers' data caps.

When the FCC voted to repeal the Obama-era regulations, the agency also said it was blocking states from crafting their own rules.

Various companies and net neutrality proponents, as well as 23 attorneys general, have asked a federal appellate court to invalidate the FCC's repeal of the rules as well as the block on state laws.

In addition to the legal challenge, officials in a number of states have attempted to impose their own net neutrality rules on providers. The governors of Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii and Vermont have signed orders requiring state agencies to contract only with providers that follow net neutrality principles. In Oregon, lawmakers passed a bill that prohibits state agencies from contracting with broadband providers that violate net neutrality principles. Washington state 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.

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