Report: AT&T-backed committee chairman aims to water down California's 'tough' net neutrality bill (UPDATE)
At the end of last month, the California State Senate passed a bill that would impose a version of net neutrality on ISPs and wireless carriers in the state. The bill calls for tougher measures than the original Obama-era regulation, which was overturned on June 11th after the Trump FCC voted to repeal net neutrality by a 3-2 party line vote. But with most of the public in favor of having all internet streams and content treated the same by providers, more than two-dozen states are now considering bringing back net neutrality through legislation. California is currently ahead of the pack.
UPDATE: Thanks to the AT&T backed Assemblyman who is the chairman of the committee deciding on the fate of SB 822, the bill was watered down so much that the author of the proposed legislation, Scott Wiener, (D-San Francisco) said he can no longer support it. The bill will go in front of another committee in the California State Assembly next week, but Wiener says that the bill, as amended, no longer supports net neutrality.
It appeared that the California bill had an easy path ahead of it. After passing the State Senate, the next stop for the bill is the Democrat-controlled State Assembly; once passed there, it would go to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, another Democrat. But late yesterday, a report from the Assembly's Communications and Conveyance Committee stated that some lawmakers plan on watering down the bill. The problem, according to organizations fighting in favor of net neutrality, is that the committee chairman, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, plans on introducing amendments to the bill that would weaken it. Why would Santiago, a Democrat from L.A. do this? Organizations like Fight for the Future claim that the assemblyman is caving in to pressure from a company that has reportedly contributed to his campaigns. You might have even heard about this firm; it is called AT&T.
Net neutrality forces ISPs and wireless carriers (businesses that AT&T is heavily involved in) to treat all streaming content the same. It prevents a carrier, like say, AT&T, from charging a company that streams music or video more for their content to be streamed on "fast lanes" that provide greater data speeds and resolution. Those extra costs could easily be passed along to the consumer. And without net neutrality, these providers can block or throttle content that they do not agree with.
So this morning, the California State Assembly will consider two bills. One, SB 822, is considered the "gold standard" for net neutrality bills. If you're in favor of net neutrality, this is the bill you want to see passed by the State Assembly. The other bill, SB 460, is a bit weaker. The authors of the two bills proposed to combine them in order to increase the odds that it would be passed without amendments, but Santiago's committee report recommended that the two bills be voted on separately.
What California's State Assembly does today is an important test for the other states that are considering similar legislation. AT&T and Assemblyman Santiago have yet to comment.