Net Neutrality Is Back Online In California!

October 11, 2018 - 8 minutes read

A few weeks ago, we wrote about California’s net neutrality bill making its way to Governor Jerry Brown for its final signature. Governor Brown recently signed the bill into law, restoring net neutrality in the state.

There’s Still Work To Do

In case you haven’t heard about the threat to our Internet freedoms in the past year and a half, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality in December 2017.

This led to many citizens voicing concerns that their opinions weren’t being heard. After all, no one wants to swap the right to browse the Internet freely for unnecessary, expensive speed upgrades and Internet website bundles similar to the bundles available for purchase in cable TV subscriptions.

Under a repealed net neutrality Internet, we’d be paying for fast lanes. If you don’t fork over the cash, your Internet speeds are subject to throttling and content is subject to blocking. A perfect example of why this is inane occurred a few months ago, when California firefighters had their data throttled by Verizon during the state’s largest wildfire ever, the Mendocino Complex Fire. The issue wasn’t resolved until the fire department upgraded their data plan.

Unfortunately, things may still be up in the air. As soon as the news reached Capitol Hill that Governor Brown signed the new law into effect, the Justice Department sent a note to expect a lawsuit. The federal government wants to stop California from blocking federal regulations, but it’s not entirely clear whether they have rule over specific state-sanctioned laws too.

Setting the Standard

Experts have frequently noted that California’s new law has the strongest net neutrality regulations in the whole country. The new law gives the attorney general the main responsibility of making sure there are no potential lawbreakers.

Compared to the original federal law, California added quite a few extra regulations into its bill. First, it restricts zero-rated data plans (deals that allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide free calls, texts, or content in exchange for using a specific app or website). Because ISPs could restrict content from some companies but not others, it wouldn’t be fair to consumers.

Unlike the bipartisan divide when Congress discussed rolling back the federal repeal of net neutrality, both parties overwhelmingly supported the bill.

As a result of California’s strongly-worded bill, advocacy groups and tech activists say other states will surely follow the example California set. Indeed, more than 25 states have considered legislating net neutrality protections when the federal decision to repeal was made.

Whose Domain Is It, Anyways?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke out against California’s newest law as soon as it passed. He says, “Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does. Once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”

Ajit Pai, the face of the FCC council that ultimately repealed net neutrality federally, also had some thoughts on California’s new law. He brought up a federal appellate court ruling that found “state regulation of information services is preempted by federal law.”

Additionally, Pai commented, “I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Department of Justice to ensure the Internet remains ‘unfettered by federal or state regulation,’ as federal law requires, and the domain of engineers, entrepreneurs, and technologists, not lawyers and bureaucrats.”

Telecom lobbyists are even predicting that this lawsuit could end up in the national Supreme Court.

Fighting Words

But Miguel Santiago, an Assemblyman representing Los Angeles who co-authored the new California legislation, disagrees. He says the new law directly relates to the First Amendment right of “free speech”. Specifically, he says, “The fight for social change and progressive values is directly tied to a free and open Internet. This measure ensures that we, in California, will maintain a free and open Internet that doesn’t discriminate or price users or content differently.”

The California Senator who initiated the legislation, Scott Wiener, said he thinks California can defend the new law in court well.

This lawsuit reminds Senator Wiener of another time when the federal government sued California. Wiener outlines that “we’ve been down this road before: when [President] Trump and Sessions sued California and claimed we lacked the power to protect immigrants. California fought Trump and Sessions on their immigration lawsuit. California won — and California will fight this lawsuit as well.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra helped lead a lawsuit against the FCC over the net neutrality repeal. But he says California needs more budget to enact the regulations, and, “while the Trump Administration continues to ignore the millions of Americans who voiced strong support for net neutrality rules, California—home to countless start-ups, tech giants and nearly 40 million consumers—will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load.”

It Won’t End Until The FCC Caves

The new California law will take effect on January 1st, 2019, and California Senator Kevin de León isn’t backing down against the federal government. As Senator de León aptly puts it, “The bottom line is this. The Internet is vital to our democracy because it is part of our daily lives.”

We’ve been watching California’s progress on the new bill from our Los Angeles-based mobile app development studio, and we couldn’t be prouder of our state government! We’re ready to support them and every state looking to reinstate net neutrality. But we know this endeavor will need all the help it can get.

Do you trust your ISP to have your best interests at heart? If you didn’t emphatically answer “YES!” with 100% certainty, you need to join us in the fight for Internet freedom and the right to privacy.

Show the FCC, the federal government, and big telecom companies that we won’t stop fighting for what’s right, no matter how much lobbying power or budget they may have.

Follow EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) to fight against the ISP monopolies, corporate giants, and the FCC. EFF is in Washington D.C., following a Circuit Court case closely that will affect the federal lawsuit against California. Donate to the EFF today so they can continue fighting for our human right of fair access to a free and open Internet.

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