California Shakes Off ISP Lobbyists, Embraces Real Net Neutrality

from the fat-lady-singing dept

Despite a rocky start, California has shaken off the lobbying influence of Comcast, AT&T and Verizon and passed meaningful net neutrality protections for the state’s broadband residents. California’s SB822, which pretty closely mirrors the FCC’s discarded 2015 rules, almost had its most important parts stripped away courtesy of some early committee gamesmanship by AT&T. When that failed, ISP-connected lobbying and influence orgs tried to scare voters away from the effort by making misleading robocalls to state senior citizens insisting the bill would dramatically raise their phone bills.

Given the continued, overwhelming and bipartisan support for net neutrality, those efforts didn’t work. SB822, which the EFF has called the “gold standard” for state-level rules, passed the California Assembly last Thursday, then managed to nab the necessary votes in the State Senate last Friday. It’s now headed to the desk of California Governor Jerry Brown for signing:

Like most protections, the rules simply prevent ISPs from using their broadband monopolies to unfairly throttle, block, or censor competing content and services. Unlike weaker bills (like those being proposed by ISPs), the bill also takes aim at all of the creative anti-competitive efforts ISPs have been engaged in in recent years, from anti-competitive abuse of usage caps and overage fees (zero rating), to the anti-competitive abuse of interconnection points with transit operators and content companies.

With SB822’s passage, the entire west coast is now covered with net neutrality rules thanks to laws passed in Oregon and Washington State; certainly not the end game most ISPs envisioned after spending millions to lobby the federal government.

You’ll likely now hear ISPs, ISP lobbyists, and their literal armies of think tankers, payrolled academics, consultants and others whine incessantly for weeks about the unfairness of having to deal with numerous, discordant state-level protections. Of course none of these folks will acknowledge that’s the telecom industry’s fault, since this wouldn’t be happening if they hadn’t waged endless war on modest (by international standards), popular, and cohesive federal rules. Whatever your thoughts on net neutrality, this move was a reflection of what the public wanted (aka, Democracy).

ISPs will now shift their attention to slowing the spread of state laws, likely by suing individual states. They’ll likely lean heavily on the “pre-emption” language Ajit Pai’s FCC included in its net neutrality repeal at the behest of Comcast and Verizon, though early efforts by ISPs to use this language to dodge state oversight for terrible service haven’t gone particularly well. Other lawyers have noted that when the FCC neutered its Title II authority under the Telecom Act at the behest of telecom monopolies, it also ironically eroded any authority to tell states what to do. Whoops.

The goal still needs to be to improve competition in the broadband space, since net neutrality violations are just a symptom of limited competition and a broken market. But until somebody in government grows a spine and is willing to stand up to deep-pocketed campaign contributors like Charter, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Comcast, net neutrality rules are the next best thing. Meanwhile, there’s still a chance to restore the FCC’s 2015 rules courtesy of the looming lawsuits headed the FCC direction; suits that will highlight the laundry list of bizarre and shady FCC behavior that accompanied the repeal.

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Companies: at&t, comcast, verizon

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Comments on “California Shakes Off ISP Lobbyists, Embraces Real Net Neutrality”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Awesome. The bill not only restores the 2015 rules but as noted it goes beyond. I already prepared my quantum violin to play for the telcos because oh boy the whining will be loud. Nuclear blast loud. But bipartisan support for the rules and universal hatred towards them tell me that the precise amount of tears shed will make the Sahara look like some sort of wetlands.

Anonymous Coward says:

“ISPs will now shift their attention to slowing the spread of state laws, likely by suing individual states”

So not only does the public have to pay in order to defend themselves at the state level but they will also be indirectly funding the ISPs in their silly quest for world domination. Getting rich playing both sides against the middle, and this is what some consider to be a good economic environment.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

On one hand one wonders about how shareholders feel about all this money spent on lawyers and legislators, when it could have gone to them in the quarterly distributions. On the other hand their demand for more, more, more put them into the quandary of how to get more without going this route.

How are they going to feel when it, in the end, fails?

Tech Gamers (user link) says:

Anonymous Coward

“ISPs will now shift their attention to slowing the spread of state laws, likely by suing individual states”

So not only does the public have to pay in order to defend themselves at the state level but they will also be indirectly funding the ISPs in their silly quest for world domination. Getting rich playing both sides against the middle, and this is what some consider to be a good economic environment

TakeThatYou says:


You’ll likely now hear ISPs, ISP lobbyists, and their literal armies of think tankers, payrolled academics, consultants and others whine incessantly for weeks about the unfairness of having to deal with numerous, discordant state-level protections.

ISP’s also wouldn’t be facing this problem if they hadn’t consolidated/merged local competitors out of business and drawn regional anti-compete maps between other ISP’s.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: TheyDidItToThemSelves

Part of the problem is also the size of the market makes it not economically feasible for real competition in large parts of the country.

There’s a reason why broadband deployment is especially lagging in rural America (even more then the rest of the country). It’s simply not profitable for the ISP’s, not even if they’re guaranteed a monopoly. It’s too much land to build infrastructure and not enough people on that land to pay for it.

While many people (especially politicians) love to brag about how awesome the free market is, the ISP market is frankly an area where the free market doesn’t work for this reason. This is why the utility classification, and a tax/subsidies system was created for water/electricity/landline phones. Prior to it many of these services (especially landline phones) simply weren’t available in rural America because there was no money in it.

michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: TheyDidItToThemSelves

Municipalities in rural areas don’t have anywhere near the money to build decent networks. This is why we need to do with internet the same thing we did with electricity.

The Rural Electrification Act used federal funds to build the infrastructure, which was then handed to member-owned co-ops to maintain. Many of these still exist today, 80-years later.

Nemo says:

Re: Re: Re:2 TheyDidItToThemSelves

“Municipalities in rural areas don’t have anywhere near the money to build decent networks.

First, define “decent”. Something like a 50Mbps network would be an upgrade over much of what’s available in many places.

Second, regarding money: While small municipal governments may not individually have the money, if it goes the co-operative route, there’s the possibility of multiple communities banding together, and/or public/private partnership, since local businesses need internet access, too.

And as for why the telcos oppose this sort of thing, it seems obvious, to me. If small rural communities were to start deploying their own networks and charging co-op rates for the service, it would reveal the actual price structure that the big ISPs use.

If what the big ISP provides nearby is $100/mo. for advertised 100Mbps that’s actually 75 on a very good day, the $30/mo. the (fictional) co-op charges for a solid 50Mbps hook-up is going to make the ISP look like it’s ripping off its customers.

Repeat in rural communities across America, and the look for the ISPs could become very bad indeed. Also, the fact that I made the numbers in my example up doesn’t invalidate the concept, so please don’t even try.

I’d use actual numbers, but those are oddly hard to come by, and who do we have to thank for that?

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Federal preemption


That’s exactly how it works.

If a power is not held by the federal government (like a federal regulatory agency declaring that they do not have regulatory power over a whole market), it is up to the states whether or not they legislate it themselves. Those laws can be unconstitutional, but that’s a whole different issue.

It’s the 10th Amendment, man. It’s literally in the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Federal preemption

For some reason, many people are under the assumption that that Federal Government runs everything, or should run everything. When in reality the Federal Government does way, way too much!!!

See when the Federal Government does something, which may be a really bad idea, there’s no fleeing from it. Is a Local or State Government des something bad, you can free out of the town or State. Good Idea’s that work out will get copied by other states, Bad Idea’s don’t get copied and it’s just the local or state government that suffers.

So the Federal Regulations get removed. Which is seems may have been a good thing as this allows the States to put in their own rules if they want. These Cable companies may have been a little short sited and screwed themselves far worse then they could have ever imagined. May have been better off leaving things as they were.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Federal preemption

For example, 120VAC 60hz – just imagine the power grid without standards.

Isn’t that exactly how it developed? Companies supplied all kinds of frequencies and eventually selected 60 Hz without goverment forcing them. Actually, government regulations said they had to supply 25 Hz power to those who wanted it—the Niagara Falls 25 Hz grid wasn’t gone till 2009! (Railways are still weird.)

History elsewhere is similar. Most non-Japanese countries settled on a single standard, typically the same one as neighboring countries, with laws/treaties not playing a huge role.

More to the point, standards don’t have to come from a higher level of government. A bunch of states use California’s air quality rules, rather than follow the Clean Air Act. It wouldn’t be crazy to do similarly for Net Neutrality, were there significant disagreement about the rules—i.e., not mainly huge ISPs objecting.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Federal preemption

well, the argument is that by the wording of the 2017 order, the FCC explicitly stated it did not have regulatory power (both as a basis for revoking the 2015 order and to prevent future net neutrality rules) over Broadband, and therefore lacking authority from congress can not preempt state laws. Such a preemption would kill likely the 2017 order in the courts by undermining the stated basis of the order. Therefore, it would require an act of legislation, which as Techdirt has noted is likely the end goal, Telecom friendly ‘net-neutrality’ which codifies bad behavior.

This is, as a note, why our regular anti-regulation commenters are off base in discussions with net neutrality. They widely comment on how the current anti competitive regulators are our just desserts, but when pressed, most admit that we need some sort of legal system and we need laws, they just don’t like un-elected ‘regulators’ doing that job. But the goal here isn’t regulation. Its legislation. It is using elected officials to craft bad laws. Because in the end, bad regulations and bad laws can and will happen. That is the point of the first amendment and the variety of lawmaking mechanisms we have – so the people can hold their representatives to account. We do not assume that every regulation or law will be gold. We do not take laws and regulations at face value. We, in the end, are skeptical, and voice our opposition to the bad, and our support of the good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I wonder...

If they were successful is defeating the states NN laws shouldn’t the state laws preventing municipal internet also be thrown out?

No, because a “municipality” is an agency of the state government. The state either authorizes (or does not authorize) its own agency to perform actions. A state may not be able to regulate an industry, but that has nothing to do with whether it chooses to create/coopt its own agency to compete in that industry.

ECA (profile) says:


61 out of 80 Assembly members – all 55 Democrats and 6 Republicans ..

Why not all of them? What is the decent to this??
How about IMPROVEMENTS to the system?

This is very basic stuff, and gives the Gov. Reps NO UNDERSTANDING of what is going to be REQUIRED, in the near future.

When the Major internet hit came around, Portland Or. has a coverage rate of 6%…They figured that AT MOST, 6% of the people would ever use the phone system..When the net hit, they had to increase this to 80+%.. it took them 6-12 months to get most of it up and running again.

PS… this was when 56k modems were being used..NOW we are 200 times faster and STILL get internet stutters.
WHO would like to play a Video game at 56k??

You cant even Watch HD youtube with Less then 10mbps.
With all the devices used in Many households, for games, Video, Movies, email, TEACHING, NEWS, and all the things in 1 house..
A family of 4, will take up Enough bandwidth of 200mbps PLUS, very easily..and if there is a TOP CAP for the amounts of data..They will blow that in 2 weeks..EASILY..

Iggy says:

All this groaning just for a pretty standard Net Neutrality law?

What kind of drama do they have for us if they have to face real competition with low prices or be held accountable for service outages and billing errors? What if they actually have to cooperate with communities on where to place their equipment?

The shitstorm would be epic

ECA (profile) says:

Re: All this groaning just for a pretty standard Net Neutrality law?

The biggest part in all this…
Who owns the Lines and equipment..
If, no one does, then ANYONE can connect and send service..

Real question is What did they get when they BOUGHT the service…?? I dont think they OWN the telephone poles, or most of the underground installations(if run on Sewers and public systems)

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