The state of California recently saw Senator Scott Weiner introduce the most powerful and far-reaching state-level Net Neutrality bill seen in the United States since the repeal of Federal Title II Net Neutrality regulations by the FCC, SB 822, and it has now been announced that state lawmakers will be making an initial decision on the bill on April 17. There will be a committee hearing on that date to determine whether the bill will be advanced for consideration to pass into law, or if it will be scrapped. Should the bill be advanced, it will still have to hit the California Senate floor for a vote before it can become law.
This bill not only reinstates the full measure of protections afforded by the old Net Neutrality law, but also bans internet providers from accepting any sort of consideration, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for zero-rating media providers' and other entities' content on their networks. Naturally, the bill has created an uproar in the telecom space, with big names like AT&T lobbying to strike the bill down before it gets its day on the senate floor. The major lobbying, however, has seen a very substantial pushback. Over 50,000 California residents wrote in to support the bill, along with close to 200 small businesses throughout the state, and 60 different startups and tech firms. The mayors of various cities in California have come out in support of the bill, as well as former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, along with former FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Gloria Tristani.
This bill's potential power to set a precedent simply cannot be understated. This bill passing and being enforced would arguably be the largest possible show of defiance to the FCC over its decision. The FCC and related entities, meanwhile, have voiced their opposition to bills like this at the state level, which undermine the FCC's federal authority to regulate the telecom industry. The FCC's repeal of Title II protections came packaged with a clause that was meant to keep states from doing exactly this sort of thing, but California and a growing number of other states argue thtathe FCC does not actually have the authority to enact or enforce such a cluse. If this bill passes and the FCC does not manage to smack it down, it will essentially mean pen season on opposition to Net Neutrality, and open the way for all sorts of related bills to pop up in state legislature nationwide.