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Tough California Net Neutrality Bill Revived

Assemblyman Santiago says net neutrality is needed as never before

SACRAMENTO — Activist groups say California State Senators Scott Wiener and Kevin de Leon, joined by Assemblymembers Rob Bonita and Miguel Santiago, have added tough provisions back into a state net neutrality bill, SB 822.

The same groups had cried foul when the bill was amended—Wiener said it had been eviscerated, including by fellow Democrats. Santiago, who chairs the communications committee, had been criticized for letting provisions, like zeroing out zero rating, be stripped from the bill.

The bill is attempting to reconstruct the FCC network neutrality rules, which were rolled back last month.

Santiago had suggested that was to keep the bill and the discussion alive, and, sounding like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, when he talked last month about the vitriol that greeted that decision.

“All through this time, the flash messaging on this measure has been easy. It’s sensational, and anger-inducing. ‘He gutted the bill!’; ‘SB 822 was eviscerated!’ ‘Santiago killed net neutrality!’ But none of those things is true,” said Santiago. “That level of rhetoric has created a firestorm. I have received threats and my wife has been harassed. My personal family pictures have been stolen from my social media platforms and used to create memes. Really? Using pictures of my kids? This is a new low.”

Santiago said that was more the tactics of the Trump Administration. “Progressives don’t behave that way. We expect this type of disrespect, fake news, and insults from Trump,” he said back on June 22.

But at a press conference Thursday (July 5) announcing the net neutrality bill 2.0, Santiago was hurling his own rhetorical bricks, saying the FCC had “destroyed the internet,” a destruction he likened to book burning. He said the country needs net neutrality more than ever, tying net neutrality to issues like abortion and immigration and saying it helped fuel the progressive movement.

The bill as crafted would restore for California the no blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization rules the FCC jettisoned earlier this month, and would have applied them to interconnections as well.

Actually it is two bills, one from Wiener that restores the net neutrality rules, and one from de Leon that requires net neutrality in government contracts for communications services. The bills will reportedly be joined, as was the initial plan before it was weakened via amendment.

“This is a big win for forty million Californians, who stood up to a steady stream of misinformation from telecoms and big ISPs and mobilized to make sure legislators pass the strongest net neutrality protections of any state in the country,” said Demand Progress campaign director Robert Cruickshank.

The state has already passed a tough new online privacy bill.