California Passes “Gold Standard” of State Net Neutrality Laws

In the final day of the session, the California legislature struck a blow in favor of net neutrality by passing the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018 (“Cal Net Neutrality”).   The bill is in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s recent “Restoring Internet Freedom” Order (“RIF Order“) that not only repealed the Obama administration’s February 2015 “Open Internet Order” that implemented new Net Neutrality rules but for the first time gave the green light to paid prioritization and throttling users so long as it is disclosed.

California joins Oregon, Vermont and Washington in passing net neutrality legislation, although the Cal Net Neutrality bill was heralded as the “gold standard” for state net neutrality rules.  Governors in six states—HawaiiNew JerseyNew YorkMontanaRhode IslandVermont—have signed executive orders regarding purchasing broadband services from ISPs that do not adhere to net neutrality principals.

The Cal Net Neutrality bill Prohibits ISPs from engaging in certain activities that impact a consumer’s ability to lawfully access content on the internet, including, but not limited to
the following:

  • Intentionally blocking lawful content, slowing or speeding traffic, or
    otherwise interfering with access to lawful content on the basis of source,
    destination, internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful
    device;
  • Engaging in third-party paid prioritization;
  • Selectively zero-rating some internet content, applications, services, or
    devices or zero-rating in exchange for consideration or payment;
  • Engaging in practices that have the purpose of evading net neutrality
    requirements.

Lead sponsor Scott Wiener stated:

 We passed the strongest net neutrality standards in the nation. The internet is at the heart of 21st century life – our economy, our public safety and health systems, and our democracy. So when Donald Trump’s FCC decided to take a wrecking ball to net neutrality protections, we knew that California had to step in to ensure our residents have access to a free and open internet. I am incredibly proud of the work we have done to protect Californians everywhere, who deserve equal and open to access to this modern day necessity.

California Governor Brown has until September 30th to sign the bill which he is expected to do.  Once signed, there will be a battle in court since the FCC’s RIF Order purports to preempt state regulation in this area.