Net Neutrality

California Democrats Want to Bring Back Net Neutrality

"Ultimately, all this bill will succeed in doing is opening our state to legal challenges and costly litigation."


The Federal Communications Commission's controversial measure repealing "net neutrality" rules went into effect last week. Supporters of net neutrality have virtually no chance of fighting back on the federal level, but in California, Democratic state legislators are getting creative.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D–San Fran.) introduced Senate Bill 822, which provides statewide net neutrality rules identical to those repealed by the FCC, including prohibitions of any distinctions by internet service providers "on the basis of source, destination, Internet content, application, service, or device." The bill passed the Senate on party lines with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans voting against. It now heads to the California Assembly.

Speaking to the Desert Sun, state Sen. Patricia Bates (R–Laguna Niguel) said of the bill, "Ultimately, all this bill will succeed in doing is opening our state to legal challenges and costly litigation, which we know is coming if the bill is passed." Barnes is probably referring to potential lawsuits from the FCC, which would claim that conflict preemption clauses in the 2015 and 2017 decisions make it unlawful for states to pass their own net neutrality laws.

"An example of this becoming an issue is with Portland," Tom Struble, technology policy manager at the R Street Institute, told Reason. "In 2002, Portland, Oregon tried to reclassify cable as a Title II service instead of a Title I service and the FCC stepped in to prevent this because it came in direct conflict with the Telecommunications Act of 1996."

Meanwhile, Washington state imposed its own net neutrality rules when Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed Substitute House Bill 2282 into law. That legislation went into effect on the same day as the FCC repeal measure. The fear of an FCC lawsuit seems to be of little concern to lawmakers in the Evergreen State.

On the other hand, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) took a more cautious approach when she signed a bill into law that prohibits government agencies from contracting Internet broadband services from providers who participate in activities not permissible under previous FCC regulations. The goal of that legislation is to impose some degree of net neutrality while avoiding an FCC lawsuit.

This trend is not limited to states in the Pacific northwest. Net neutrality legislation is also pending in Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, and New York.

Allowing states to write their own net neutrality laws risks creating 50 different regulatory schemes that would come in conflict with one another due to the nature of the Internet.

"Everyone can agree that the federal government needs to be the ones to provide the guidelines on this issue, not 50 different patchwork regulations for each state," says Struble. "These states are well aware of the outcome and are often complicit in wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer resources to prove the point that they're not happy with federal law on this issue."

Net neutrality advocates, such as Fight for the Future, want states to send a message to Washington. The group released the following statement:

This victory in California shows that net neutrality is here to stay. It's time for our Federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the US Senate and California State Senate, listen to their constituents, tech experts, and small business owners, and vote for the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to restore open Internet protections for all.

Speaking to the Cato Institute a few days after the measure went into effect, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not specify whether he would pursue legal action against states that passed such legislation, but did state that he was concerned about having too many different regulatory schemes. "It's better to have a single, consistent federal regulatory scheme," he said.

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  1. So now leftists believe in states rights? Isn’t that a dog whistle for racism or something?

    1. Only when Republicans control the federal government.

    2. Now rightists say that states rights aren’t the issue here? *giggle* catching both parties with their mixed message policies is always funny.

      1. Nate, you’re stupid and incoherent as always.

  2. California Democrats Want to

    I’m’a stop you right there.

  3. Net neutrality advocates, such as Fight for the Future, want states to send a message to Washington.

    But only their specific message. If Hillary’s FCC had imposed Net Neutrality and Texas passed a state law undoing it, I bet they’d be on a different teeter-totter.

  4. Net Neutrality is a bad idea. Why is this so hard to understand?

    1. People don’t remember Ma Bell.

      1. Some people have nostalgia for Ma Bell.

        1. I have never heard anyone mention Ma Bell except in a positive light and bemoaning its break-up

          1. Wait…isn’t her name Ma Beagle? We’re talking about Duck Tales, right?


            1. On the assumption you’re not being factious, I’m pretty sure Ma Beagle was based on Ma Barker

              That said, I am not nostalgic for Ma Bell. It died when I was a child, but I remember when the phones in your house were usually Bell leases.
              I’ll grant that they did tend to be better built than the off-brand ones.

              I remember when it cost more to call someone in the next town over than it cost to call someone in the next state over, (I attribute this to there being more competition in long distance carriers than in local last mile providers.)

              I have heard of a time when you were charged per phone extension, even though you could still only make one phone call at a time, and third-party phones had a ringer voltage selector switch, so they’d detect as half a phone.

              1. Yes, I made a bad joke

          2. Then you weren’t around when it happened.

        2. We’d still have dial-up if the monopoly hadn’t been broken up. That monopoly was founded on bullshit, too–“universal service.”

          1. No one said “universal service” would be good. Just that it would be universal.

            1. There was a time not all that long ago that TV penetration was greater than phone penetration. Note that the former had no “universal service” requirement.

          2. Hell, we’d still have to fucking rent your house phone forever instead of buying one.

            1. and still be limited to one phone per house unless you were handy at bypassing like many of us were

      2. People don’t remember Ma Bell.

        Or, apparently, even cable before Netflix.

        1. Opposition to a la carte programming has centered in part on program diversity. When channels are bundled into large subscription tiers, less popular niche channels are more likely to survive because their cost is borne by both viewers and non-viewers, alike.[18][19] In 2008, the National Congress of Black Women and fourteen other groups argued that case in a letter to the FCC, writing that a la carte pricing would “wreak havoc” on programming diversity.[20] Televangelist Jerry Falwell opposed a la carte pricing for similar reasons, fearing that the pricing model would force Christian broadcasters off the air, although not all religious broadcasters agreed.[21]

          How can people not just laugh at this argument. “We need to be subsidized because people don’t actually like what we’re showing.”

          1. But the world of the 90s would have been a sad, empty place without BET.

  5. California hasn’t seen a regulation that don’t like. Now if only illegals were illegal in CA.

  6. It’s great how California is leading #TheResistance against Drumpf’s disastrous policies. If only all states could be so forward-thinking.

    Just the other day, I tried streaming a movie on the same computer I always use, and 5 minutes in I got that annoying spinning hourglass thing because my connection couldn’t keep up. I suspect the Net Neutrality reversal is to blame for my recent Internet trouble.

  7. …prohibitions of any distinctions by internet service providers “on the basis of source, destination, Internet content, application, service, or device.”

    Cool, they can’t stop people from using WinNuke.

    1. Has interesting implications for spam filtering as well.

      1. Real spam is real food
        Web spam is real web

      2. Has interesting implications for child pornography, too. “Content.”

  8. After embracing federalism for immigration, reason suddenly finds the need for federal supremacy when it comes to net neutrality.

    1. I doubt that. They’ll sell out on this in due time.

    2. Ah yes, the old blind eye to any actual meaning. It’s ok for the feds to knock down unconstitutional state laws which violate various amendments, but as soon as it knocks down your pet goat, it’s immoral to have any constitutional limits.

  9. So Milo gets his account back?
    The conservatives can sue to get Google to return them in search results?
    Does anyone know exactly hard is would be to move all the internet servers out of CA?
    Is there a way to use ISP location to suspend all internet/web activity to or from CA? There is? Well, there you go.

    1. Most of them aren’t in California in the first place. Google has 7 data centers in North America. Only one of them is in California.

      1. “Only one of them is in California.”

        And despite the lefty noises from the ownership, that one will prolly leave soon.

        1. If the locals tax Google per head on their employees, yes, I can see Google making the sensible decision and reducing their exposure to California’s tax code.

          Google turns 20 this year. You know the old saying, which I’m paraphrasing, since the source was apparently a Frenchman, and not Churchill.
          “If my son is not a liberal when he’s twenty five, he has no heart. If he’s not a conservative by the time he’s thirty five, he has no brain”

  10. What should be the focus of these politicians are the local monopoly laws that keep competitors out and customers locked in. Also cable companies should not be given right aways on private land. If they don’t want communism when it hurts them, they can’t have it to help them.

  11. “”all this bill will succeed in doing is opening our state to legal challenges and costly litigation.””

    Given that the core constituency of the people who wrote the bill are “shitty law firms with lots of political connections”, i assume this is a feature, not a bug

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