Update 05/30/2018: On May 30, the California Senate voted 23-12 to pass S.B. 822. Now it must be passed by the California Assembly to be on its way to the governor's desk.
California’s S.B. 822 is a gold standard for states looking to protect net neutrality. And since the FCC abandoned its role in protecting a free and open Internet, states stepping up is more important than ever. Today, EFF, representatives from groups across California, and other advocates for net neutrality are in Sacramento telling legislators not to bow to the will of large ISPs like AT&T and Comcast. Add your voice to theirs by calling your state senator.
Sen. Scott Wiener’s S.B. 822 would prevent ISPs in California from engaging in blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and anti-competitive zero rating. Blocking and throttling are what they sound like: preventing access to or slowing down access to any service or content an ISP chooses. Paid prioritization and zero rating are more subtle threats to the free market.
Certain types of paid prioritization allow ISPs to create fast and slow lanes, either charging a fee to guarantee companies faster access to Internet users or making sure their own content is delivered faster or better so that they can make extra money off of their subscribers. An ISP that owns a streaming service has a reason to relegate competitors to the slow lane, even if the competitors have a better service. Similarly, anti-competitive zero-rating practices allow ISPs to pick and choose services that don’t count against a customer’s data cap. A low data cap combined with zero-rating its own content incentivizes people to use the ISP’s service to watch its content, again artificially increasing its bottom line.
S.B. 822 bans these actions and prevents ISPs that don’t abide by these prohibitions from contracting with California state and local governments. That means ISPs who aren’t net neutral can’t get contracts from a state that is the fifth largest economy in the world.
Large ISPs such as AT&T don’t like this bill. They’ve mustered a series of absurd arguments that have been repeatedly rebutted. And yet, they came very close to convincing lawmakers to weaken the bill in their favor.
It’s time to make sure their money doesn’t speak louder than the vast majority of Americans who support net neutrality. While EFF and a number of other groups are in Sacramento, in person, to explain why this legislation is so important, add your voice by calling your California state senator and tell them to vote yes on S.B. 822.