CA net neutrality bill passes out of committee

After the Republican-controlled FCC eliminated essential safeguards that ensure fair Internet access to all users, state legislators across the country took it upon themselves to protect their constituents. Lawmakers in New York, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, and Nebraska have all indicated that they will introduce state-level legislation. In California, SB 460 has already cleared its committee.

The California Internet Consumer Protections and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, or SB 460, would restore the safeguards eliminated by Trump’s FCC – no blocking, no throttling, and no favoritism. These rules will apply to wireline and wireless broadband providers. The bill also requires accurate broadband speed reporting by broadband providers and establishes a mechanism by which consumers can test their broadband speeds.

The Communications Workers of America District 9 – representing 60,000 California workers – supports SB 460. Below is District 9’s statement  in support of SB 460:

CWA has long supported clear rules to protect a free and open Internet. The decision by the Republican-majority at the FCC to eliminate the rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers from blocking content, slowing down some Internet traffic, or giving favorable treatment to some websites and applications over others threatens essential safeguards that ensure fair Internet access to all users.

Those three rules – no blocking, no throttling, no favoritism - were first articulated in the 2005 Internet Freedom Policy Statement unanimously adopted by the FCC under Republican Chairman Kevin Martin and codified by the FCC in both the 2010 and 2015 Open Internet rules. Those rules were working to preserve freedom on the Internet while spurring job-creating investment in the Internet economy that is so crucial to our state. Nationally, the top 15 broadband providers invested $72.9 billion in 2014, $73.3 billion in 2015, and $72.6 billion in 2016 in their networks – with a substantial portion of that investment in California.

But now the Republican FCC majority has thrown out these bright-line rules, leaving Internet consumers with a “trust me” regime. Trust me is not enough. We need clear, enforceable rules, with public oversight to enforce any violations. A recent survey by the University of Maryland found that 83 percent of Americans – including 75 percent of Republican respondents – reject the FCC net neutrality plan. SB 460, the California Internet Consumer Protections and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, aims to fill the gap left by the FCC’s disastrous elimination of Open Internet protections. SB 460 would restore the no blocking, no throttling, and no favoritism rules. These rules would apply to wireline and wireless broadband providers. CWA is particularly pleased that the bill would require accurate speed reporting by broadband providers, and would require the California Public Utilities Commission to establish a mechanism that would allow customers to test their broadband speeds and report the results to the CPUC for enforcement.

Finally, I would note that there are a number of approaches to ensure that broadband providers do not give favorable treatment to some websites and applications over others, while at the same time enabling innovation in the delivery and pricing of content to consumers. The 2010 FCC Open Internet Order, for example, prohibited discriminatory treatment by requiring ISPs to make any innovative quality of service or bundled pricing package available to all content providers. CWA encourages the Committee to explore such alternative approaches and stands ready to work with you in this regard.

In summary, CWA believes SB 460 moves in the right direction in protecting the free and open Internet that the people of California rely on.

 

Links:

CWA: FCC vote will damage free and open Internet (Speed Matters, Dec. 14, 2017)

Democrats work to save net neutrality (Speed Matters, Jan. 10, 2018)

States Push Back After Net Neutrality Repeal (New York Times, Jan. 11, 2018)