Enacting the nation’s strongest net neutrality protections in California

An open internet is essential to maintaining our democracy, growing our economy, protecting consumers, and preserving critical health, safety, and energy services. Late last year, when the FCC made the disastrous decision to repeal net neutrality, I announced I would pursue legislation to protect net neutrality in California. In January, I introduced a summary version of Senate Bill 822, and over the last two months, I’ve been working with civil rights and privacy advocates, public policy experts and lawyers, former state and federal commissioners, and business leaders to craft the strongest and most comprehensive set of net neutrality protections in the country.

Senator Wiener introducing the initial version of SB 822 in the State Senate on January 3, the first day of the 2018 California Legislative session

Today, we are announcing new, detailed amendments that make SB 822 the strongest and most comprehensive net neutrality proposal in the country. You can read the legislation here and a detailed description of the amendments here. SB 822 establishes comprehensive and enforceable net neutrality standards that will put California at the forefront of our national efforts to protect the internet. SB 822 applies its net neutrality standards to any ISP that serves a customer in California.

At its core, SB 822 stands for the basic proposition that the role of internet service providers (ISPs) is to provide neutral access to the internet, not to pick winners and losers by deciding (based on financial payments or otherwise) which websites or applications will be easy or hard to access, which will have fast or slow access, and which will be blocked entirely. Internet service providers play a key role in allowing people to access the internet, but ISPs must not be allowed to decide who can access what websites or applications. Without net neutrality, ISPs have the power to manipulate which business, media, nonprofit, or political websites are accessible and by whom.

SB 822 prohibits any practice that hinders or manipulates consumer access to the Internet to favor certain types of content, services, or devices over others. SB 822 prohibits all of the following: blocking or speeding up or slowing down of favored data, paid prioritization, charging services (whether businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy organizations, etc.) access fees to reach certain consumers, and economic discrimination practices that distort consumer choice.

Fundamentally, all data traffic should be Application Agnostic (and SB 822 requires as much), which means ISPs should not vary access or speeds among applications (e.g., making one streaming website faster than another) or classes of applications (e.g., making video streaming faster than phone service). Also, economic discrimination practices, such as providing that one service does not count against a data cap while other similar services do (practices known as “zero rating”) disrupt consumer choice by manipulating what sites people choose to use. All California residents should have the right to choose whether, when, and for what purpose they use the internet, once they have access.

SB 822 requires that any Internet Service Provider (ISP) serving a customer in California must comply with the standards of SB 822. That means every consumer, or end user, in California who is accessing the Internet will be protected by net neutrality. In addition, SB 822 requires that any ISP that contracts with the State of California, receives public infrastructure grants to build out broadband service, or applies for or holds a state franchise for video service must comply with these standards.

SB 822 prohibits deceptive communications with consumers and enacts strong disclosure requirements to better inform consumers. Consumers should not be subject to misleading marketing or advertising practices when subscribing to an internet access services.

I’m proud to be working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU California, Courage Campaign, and CALPIRG, as well as my co-authors in both houses of the Legislature.

For more details, you can view the amendment fact sheet here.