Huge news for broadband privacy! A California bill that would restore many of the privacy protections that Congress stripped earlier this year is headed for a final vote this Friday,
The bill, A.B. 375, had languished in the Senate Rules Committee due to the efforts of AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon to deny a vote. But constituents called and emailed their representatives and reporters started asking questions. The overwhelming public support for privacy has so far counteracted the lobbying by telecommunications companies, which will spare no expense to keep the gift handed to them by Congress and the Trump administration.
The legislation is now one step away from landing on the governor’s desk, with final votes set for September 15, the last day of session. If you live in California, you have 72 hours remaining to call your state Assemblymember and state Senator and tell them to vote AYE for A.B. 375 this Friday.
The Battle Behind the Scenes
Despite widespread public support, A.B. 375 has faced significant procedural hurdles behind the scenes in Sacramento, in part because the bill was introduced late in the legislation cycle in response to the Congressional vote. The bill emerged victorious from two Senate committees with strong votes in July before getting stuck in the Senate Rules Committee in the weeks that followed. Recognizing that they will not beat this bill by the votes, the ISP industry players that opposed the bill (note, many ISPs in California support AB 375), opted to run out the clock.
On Tuesday, however, the Senate Rules Committee Chair and Senate Leader Kevin de Leon decided to move the bill for a vote, and his committee approved discharging the bill for the Senate floor. Following that step, the California Senate voted 25 to 13 to make it eligible for a final vote. These procedural steps are necessary under California law because bills must be in public display for 72 hours as required by Proposition 54 that was approved by voters in 2016.
The bill’s final version continues to mirror the now repealed FCC broadband privacy rule and the bill as it stands now would effectively return power to California consumers over their personal data that their ISP obtains from the broadband service. That means your browser history, the applications you use, your location when you use the Internet are firmly controlled by you. If A.B. 375 is enacted, ISPs must have your permission first before they can resell or use that data with third parties beyond providing broadband access services.
Furthermore, the bill expands consumer protection beyond the original FCC rule by banning pay for privacy practices such as AT&T’s effort to charge people $30 more for broadband if they did not surrender their private information. While AT&T dropped its plan once the FCC began updating the privacy rules in 2015, their successful lobbying campaign to repeal the rule had cleared the way for them to revisit plans to roll it back out. If A.B. 375 is law though residents in this state will never face what was essentially a privacy tax.
The stage is set for a final vote this Friday, the last day of session for the California legislature so that it can be sent to the Governor’s office this year. Speak up now to demand that the legislature puts people’s privacy over ISP profits.