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California Legislature Passes Net Neutrality, but Will Gov. Jerry Brown Sign It?

States are now the main battleground in regulating internet and social-media giants.

Fred Greaves/REUTERS/NewscomFred Greaves/REUTERS/NewscomThe California state legislature has passed "Net Neutrality" legislation that would

prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling lawful Internet traffic and from requiring fees from websites or online services to deliver or prioritize their traffic to consumers. The bill would also ban paid data cap exemptions (aka "zero-rating").

The bill passed in late August, over the objections of internet service providers (ISPs) and cellphone companies, according to Ars Technica.

It's not clear whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the bill into law but it's certain that there will be plenty of lawsuits if he does. First and foremost is the question of whether states have the right to pass such legislation or if the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preempts them (it's pretty clear that it does).

Earlier this year, the FCC repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, which had increased regulation on ISPs. In 2015, future FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai famously told Reason that Net Neutrality was a "solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist," an insight that has been borne out by subsequent events. Internet connections and speeds keep getting better regardless of the regulatory regime.

When it comes to state-level attempts to regulate internet companies, Net Neutrality is hardly the only battlefield. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

State attorneys general are emerging as a new regulatory threat to the U.S. companies that dominate the internet.

State officials are raising risks for companies such as Facebook Inc.,Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google as the states begin piecing together a coordinated legal strategy for confronting the firms over alleged antitrust violations and data-privacy abuses, and over what some Republicans say is a suppression of conservative speech.

The Federal Trade Commission is also looking into various aspects of Amazon's business and President Donald Trump regularly attacks its owner, Jeff Bezos, by name. If last week's Senate Intelligence Committee hearings with Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey proved anything, it's that internet companies have now reached a stage of maturity where they are ready, willing, and able to be regulated in such a way that both government and business leaders find mutually beneficial. Sandberg and Dorsey rebuffed claims that they were stifling conservative voices on their platforms but also agreed with larger points about the need to restrict hate speech, bots, Russians, and other bad things. Of course, it's not just congressional Republicans who want to make sure that pro-Trump vloggers Diamond and Silk are not being shadow banned. Democrats have alleged that Facebook charged Hillary Clinton more for campaign ads than it did Donald Trump, among other things. Earlier this year, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg announced that the question wasn't whether social media should be regulated but how.

And even Pai is musing about some sort of regulation of social media and internet companies. Before last week's Senate hearings, he wrote, "do steps need to be taken to ensure that consumers receive more information about how these companies operate, and if so, what should those steps be and who should take them?" While he is emphatic that "the government — in particular, the Federal Communications Commission, which I have the privilege of leading — shouldn't regulate these entities like a water company," it seems to me he is conceding that heavier regulation, at least in terms of mandated transparency of network practices, is practically a foregone conclusion.

Earlier this year, Reason TV explained why Mark Zuckerberg welcomes regulation:

Photo Credit: Fred Greaves/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Ron||

    what these idiots don't realize is that bandwidth is physically limited and if you are not allowed to limit usage then the whole system will crash and no one will get good service. these so called science believers don't have an ounce of science understanding. i guess thats why they belive in AGW they are so easily fooled.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    That's why we need regulation, to make sure that limited bandwidth gets parceled out appropriately. NPR is a national treasure, so they should get priority, and anytime Obama speaks we should shut down all competing venues because everyone should hear what he says.

    We aren't asking for anything draconian here, just commonsense regulation!

  • Spookk||

    That's only because the USA is a third-world country concerning internet infrastructure. That's because there are insufficient requirements to create and expand said infrastructure.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Bullshit. The USA has huge amounts of land that is sparsely populated. The 'most of the rest of the world' you are comparing to is heavily concentrated in urban areas. Their lightly populated areas have minimal infrastructure.

    Comparing urban apples to urban apples, the USA comes out about average.

    I met a couple from the Netherlands while hiking out in Utah, and they spent most of their time bitching about how terrible the cell service was in the USA. I asked them twice if the terrain of Utah was comparable to the Netherlands and they laughingly said 'no'. Didn't stop them from bitching though...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Democrats have alleged that Facebook charged Hillary Clinton more for campaign ads than it did Donald Trump...

    Did we really want a president who had a habit of overpaying for under-performing services?

  • damikesc||

    Does anybody remotely believe that hyper-lefty Facebook screwed over Hillary?

    Seriously?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony and the new Buttplugger will be here shortly to answer that.

  • Ken Shultz||

    California can't be made to cooperate with federal officials on immigration because immigration is a federal issue.

    Oh, and California law supersedes the FCC?

    Not sure I get that.

    Meanwhile, although they haven't killed the goose that lays the golden eggs yet--despite stabbing it with their steely knives--if they keep on stabbin', it'll die eventually. And then they won't stop until it looks like Detroit.

    I love this state. For pity's sake, it doesn't have to be this way.

  • Mickey Rat||

    If that goose does not up golden egg production then it deserves to die. It cannot be allowed to thwart the will of the people by claiming there are limits to what it can do.

  • XM||

    And CA knows how important tech and internet companies are to their economy. SF gives Google a ton of financial deals and incentives.

    I also don't understand how a state or a federal government can prevent a company from charging more for premium service.

    Verizon actually left CA (and a few other states). They're focusing on mobile traffic apparently. They were replaced by Frontier, who botched the transfer completely. I was left without internet and TV for weeks. ISPs will have incentive to merge or even abandon certain markets if states continue to pass NN.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    I don't know enough to state an opinion on "net neutrality", but I will say that the thought of California regulating anything that may impact the lives of millions in and outside the state gives me the chilly heebie-jeebies.

  • Rockabilly||

    Progs love to tax and regulate.

    It turns them on.

    Weird, eh?

  • DarrenM||

    It's a power thing. Kind of like rape.

  • John||

    This is why we have a commerce clause. We don't have a commerce clause so the federal government can regulate everything that moves. We have a commerce clause so that states can't impose their regulations on other states. This is a perfect example of something that violates the so called "negative commerce clause". Fuck these morons. This is a national issue about the national market. They have no fucking right or power to overrule the feds here.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Cue the "but muh federalism" morons.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Your stupidity is showing more than Klinger's slips

  • Jerryskids||

    First and foremost is the question of whether states have the right to pass such legislation or if the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preempts them (it's pretty clear that it does).

    I'm going to have to argue with that assertion - the power of the FCC (technically the federal agents with guns and badges) may preempt the states, but the FCC's authority is at least legally dubious. (See Comcast v FCC.) The Federal Communications Act had to do with the regulation and distribution of the inherently limited public airwaves for radio (and later, television), which is why cable TV does not have to follow the same standards as broadcast television - bandwidth is essentially unlimited with cable. If the FCC wants to assert authority to regulate all sorts of communications, well, books and newspapers and the spoken word are all methods of communication, aren't they?

  • damikesc||

    If the FCC wants to assert authority to regulate all sorts of communications, well, books and newspapers and the spoken word are all methods of communication, aren't they?

    The repeal of net neutrality was done to REMOVE regulations, not add them.

  • Rossami||

    True but irrelevant to the legal argument, damikesc. The question is one of preemption. It doesn't matter whether the intent of the Feds is to increase or decrease regulation - only who gets to make the call.

    Generally, I agree that the federal preemption argument is stronger, though Jerryskids raises a compelling counter-argument.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Commerce Clause for the win.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Bandwidth is not essentially unlimited with cable anymore than transport capacity is essentially unlimited with roads. And CA is attempting to assert control over companies clearly outside of its boundaries.

  • damikesc||

    State officials are raising risks for companies such as Facebook Inc.,Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google as the states begin piecing together a coordinated legal strategy for confronting the firms over alleged antitrust violations and data-privacy abuses, and over what some Republicans say is a suppression of conservative speech.

    If Trump was involved --- it'd be called collusion.

    Just sayin'.

    And it'd be ACCURATE in this case.

  • Longtobefree||

    What is the economic impact to California when all service providers block all addresses that originate in California, thereby being 'neutral'? Imagine Amazon without an internet connection!
    Who will the firefighters blame when there phone service is degraded by all the movie download bandwidth hogs, and not by Verizon?
    Will anyone care?

  • damikesc||

    Given that many are based there --- we'd be stuck with net neutrality whether we like it or not.

    Which is why I, desperately, want Congress to enforce recognition of gun licenses nationally and allowing my state to come up with some not-super-stringent rules on licenses.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    On September 11, 2018 California went internet dark as all ISPs in that state shut down.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Where were you?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    In the interest of experimentation, I think the FCC should let California do what it proposes. I suspect for some companies it may be the final straw to relocate out of California. Unless California is going to put up a statewide firewall, they'll have a hard time keeping their citizens from taking advantage of out of state providers.

    Stupidity needs to run it's course. Keeping something from being terminally stupid benefits only the terminally stupid.

  • BYODB||


    Unless California is going to put up a statewide firewall, they'll have a hard time keeping their citizens from taking advantage of out of state providers.


    Well, lord knows that the internet giants have been practicing in China for some time now so I imagine it won't be as hard to implement as some might think. I mean, it'll still be mostly ineffective for anyone that knows how to use a proxy but that's beside the point.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    How can you access a Neutral Net, when the grid collapses under the Clean Energy Mandate?

  • madam margaret||

    this is the problem with bad metaphors. as soon as you call something a pipeline some idiot party of politicians will try to make laws regulating its flow

    what if it's not a pipeline? what if it's not a superhighway?

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