The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

California Takes Two Steps Back on Net Neutrality

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The state of California has moved ahead with one of the most ambitious pieces of state-based net neutrality legislation to date.  SB 822, the Communications: Broadband Internet Access Service, reinstates the restrictions put in place by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 2015 and goes even further with additional regulatory restrictions.  

First introduced on January 3, 2018, SB 822 was heavily amended during committee consideration in June of 2018.  The California Assembly Appropriations committee removed the more restrictive aspects of the bill reducing the language to the FCC’s original 2015 restrictions. However, on July 5, 2018, bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner (D-11th) announced that legislators would move forward with the stronger provisions restored.  Sen. Weiner is looking to regain “what was lost” when the FCC repealed its net neutrality laws. 

“What was lost” are the misguided and antiquated rules implemented by the FCC on March 12, 2015, under the Open Internet Order (OIO).  The rallying cry for a “free and open internet” completely disregards the 20 years leading up to the OIO during which very little blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization took place.  The replacement for the OIO came on December 14, 2017. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO) was adopted by the FCC, which returned the internet to a light-touch regulatory regime, increased Internet Service Provider (ISP) transparency requirements, and reestablished the Federal Trade Commission as the enforcer of internet rules. 

Leading up to and following the repeal of the OIO and enforcement of the RIFO, there has been plenty of misinformation and fearmongering regarding the status of the internet by far-left activists.  Predictably and fortunately, their hyped-up doomsday theories of bundled internet packages or pay-to-play services that supposedly favor large companies have not come to pass, and the internet remains as dynamic as ever.  Nevertheless, the continued onslaught of misinformation and a misguided desire for heavy-handed government regulations mean that the fight against net neutrality is nowhere close to over. 

SB 822 specifically attacks the practice known as “zero-rating,” wherein ISPs exempt certain services from counting against a customer’s data caps.  Zero-rating allows families on a budget to use more services without paying for data overages. For the state to disallow this practice does a disservice to California customers and providers alike.  On February 3, 2017, the FCC effectively announced its position on zero-rating when it ended the previous administration’s investigations into the practice.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the practices, “have proven to be popular among consumers,” and that the FCC “will not focus on denying Americans free data.” 

Instead of fighting a pointless battle for more government regulations and less consumer freedom, California legislators would do well to keep that same mindset.

-- Charlie Stephens

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