AT&T’s least favorite net neutrality bill takes another step forward

A California bill that would impose the nation’s strictest net neutrality law has been approved by another state Senate committee, bringing it closer to passage.

The California Senate Judiciary committee approved the bill Tuesday in a 5-2 vote, with Democrats supporting the net neutrality rules and Republicans opposing them.

“California can—and must—step up to re-establish the Obama-era net neutrality rules to protect consumers and our democracy,” bill sponsor Sen.

Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) said in an announcement.

The bill would replicate the US-wide bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization that were implemented by the FCC in 2015, and it would go beyond the FCC rules with a ban on paid data-cap exemptions. The FCC voted to repeal its rules in December, although the commission hasn’t finalized the repeal yet.[/ars_story_sidebar]

Wiener’s bill was approved last week by the California Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee despite protests from AT&T and cable lobbyists. AT&T complained in last week’s committee hearing that the bill “goes well beyond the FCC order of 2015.”

Next steps

The California net neutrality bill can proceed to a vote in the full state Senate after it goes through the Senate Appropriations Committee, which reviews bills that have a fiscal impact after they have been cleared by policy committees. With the Judiciary vote, the bill has cleared the last Senate policy committee that it needed approval from.

The bill would also need approval from the Democratic-majority State Assembly and Governor Jerry Brown, also a Democrat.

California is almost certain to face lawsuits from the broadband industry if it imposes a net neutrality law. The USTelecom lobby group, which represents AT&T and other telcos, has already said that it will sue states that impose net neutrality rules. The group would argue that the FCC repeal preempts states from imposing their own net neutrality laws.

For analysis on possible litigation, see our previous article, “Why states might win the net neutrality war against the FCC.”

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