California lawmakers have until Sept. 15 to decide whose side they’re on: broadband consumers like you or giant cable and telephone companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
The matter at hand: A.B. 375, legislation from Assemblymember Ed Chau that would restore many of the privacy protections that Congress stripped earlier this year, despite roaring opposition from their constituencies. The bill would require broadband providers to obtain your permission before selling your data, like the websites you visit.
All things being equal, this should be a no-brainer for the Democratic-controlled California legislature. In Congress, the repeal was opposed unanimously by Democrats, who were joined by 15 Republicans. So what gives?
That is not to say that Republican legislators would benefit from opposing the bill, because 75 percent of Republican voters believed the President should have vetoed the bill.
No reason remains to deny a vote on AB 375 other than to protect the interests of the nations largest ISPs, which deploy a small army of lobbyists to Sacramento. That’s why we need California Internet users join us right now in calling and emailing legislators to demand action on A.B. 375.
Here Are Where Things Stand Today
In July, the California Senate committee that oversees utilities, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, approved the bill by wide margins after the author, Assemblymember Chau, promised to work with Senate leadership to amend the bill to mirror the FCC rules. Those amendments were effectively completed in late August.
The strongest opposition to the bill continues to come from the vertically integrated ISPs who threw everything and the kitchen sink at the bill and still lost big when it came down to committee votes.
It’s important to note that not all ISPs oppose A.B. 375. Supporters of the bill include large regional players like Sonic and local ISPs who genuinely support a law prohibiting the resale of their customers’ information without first obtaining their permission. Furthermore, the legislation has received the support of consumer privacy organizations across the board and wide support in the press. A recent national poll showed that 80% of voters, regardless of party affiliation, oppose ISPs selling their personal information without their permission.
But as of today, there is no indication that Senate leadership intends to allow the bill to move forward. It remains held with the Senate Rules Committee, which is led by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon. While the Sen. de Leon has given no public indication of whether he supports or opposes A.B. 375, his committee is the bottleneck, because the Senate cannot even vote on it until the committee moves the bill.
We hope that the bill will be discharged soon so that California legislators can do what their constituents want and vote to protect our privacy. Without a vote, the major ISPs will take the victory they obtained from the Trump administration and Congress earlier this year—the repeal of federal broadband privacy rights under FCC rules—one step further by preventing the state legislature from restoring those rights in California.
Very little time remains before the clock runs out. Take action now to demand an up or down vote on A.B. 375.