California Legislature Moving to Pass Super Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality
Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images
Newport Beach, CA

The California Senate passed a super “Net Neutrality” law just as the Obama-era regulation of the Internet is set to be expire on April 23.

ARS Technica reported California Senate Bill SB 822 was passed out of Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications on an 8-3 vote this week to prohibit Internet service providers (ISP) like AT&T and Spectrum from charging fees to “edge providers” that supply content to “end users” that are the recipients of content.

The bill goes farther than the federal regulatory effort because of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

CLRA allows California lawyers to form class action lawsuits to sue corporations to enjoin methods, acts, or practices; restitution of property; punitive damages; court costs and attorney’s fees; and any other relief that the court deems proper. What makes it a wildly profitable business for ambulance chasers is the structure that plaintiff attorney’s fees are recoverable, but defendant’s attorney costs are usually not recoverable.

Net neutrality has always sounded user friendly in forcing Internet service providers (ISP)s to not slow down, speed up, or block data as it is routed from its content originator to end users, but it was lobbying by Silicon Valley companies to the tune of $139.5 million in 2014 that led to regulating the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, making ISPs public utilities subject to the iron grip of theFederal Communications Commission (FCC).

But in the highly competitive free market of multiple ISPs, consumers can easily flip vendors. AT&T’s blocking of Apple’s FaceTime video chat application on iPhones in 2012 and 2013 for eating up too much bandwidth capacity led to massive amounts of defections to other ISP’s. AT&T was forced to increase capacity and allow unlimited FaceTime.

California’s net neutrality would go much further than the FCC rules by being more restrictive of paid prioritization and zero-rating, which allow consumers to access certain Internet content and services without it counting against their monthly data plans.

Democrat-dominated Washington and Oregon have already passed their own net neutrality laws after the December 2017 FCC repeal vote. Vermont, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, and New York governors have issued executive orders that impose net neutrality rules on ISPs that provide Internet service to any state government agencies.

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