California legislators advance bill to set strongest net neutrality protections in U.S.

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California lawmakers advanced an ambitious proposal Thursday to prevent broadband providers from hindering or manipulating access to the internet, bringing the state closer to enacting the strongest net neutrality protections in the country.

The legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would bring back Obama-era internet rules rolled back by federal regulators this year, the latest volley cast by state leaders already feuding with the Trump administration over immigration and climate protection policies.

The proposal prevents internet service providers from blocking or slowing down websites and video streams or charging websites fees for faster speeds. But it also goes further than the old regulations and measures taken up by other states, placing new limits on certain data plans and tasking the state's attorney general with investigating cases in which companies might be evading the rules.

On the Assembly floor, Republicans argued that the state was going too far and would create a patchwork of state and federal laws that would be cumbersome on companies and hinder innovation.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, a former broadcaster, argued that "light-touch regulation" had helped the internet flourish.

"The overreach, the going too far here is going to be challenged for its unconstitutionality, and we are going to find ourselves in very uncertain territory," he said.

Accusing the bill's proponents of being unable to explain , Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, called the Democrats' resistance to the Trump administration "embarrassing."

"You are wading into an area that you have no business being in," she said.

But supporters argued that California needed to take a stand at a time when officials appointed by President Trump had rolled back consumer protections—and broadband providers were willing to profit at the expense of customers and public safety.

"We are stepping up and filling the role that we need to fill because we cannot rely on this federal government to protect us when we need protection," Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, said.

Senate Bill 822 cleared the state Assembly with overwhelming support on a 59-18 vote, overcoming the first major hurdle after months of aggressive lobbying and online advocacy campaigns waged between internet advocates and the telecom industry that has drawn national attention.

California is one of 29 states to consider net neutrality protections since the Federal Communications Commission voted late last year to reverse the Obama-era internet regulations, with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Republicans calling for an end to the utility-like oversight of internet service providers.

The rules, enacted in February 2015 and ended in June, barred broadband and wireless companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon from selling faster delivery of some data, slowing speeds for certain content or favoring selected websites over others.

Wiener's Senate Bill 822 would, in effect, reestablish the same regulations. It also restricts some zero-rated data plans, or package deals that allow companies such as Verizon or Comcast to exempt some calls, texts or other content from counting against a customer's data plan.

An additional proposal, Senate Bill 460, by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would deny public contracts to companies that fail to follow the new state internet rules. It is also expected to be taken up by the Assembly this week.

Clashes between net neutrality proponents and telecom industry lobbyists heated up again last week when Verizon was reported to have slowed the speed of the Santa Clara County Fire Department's wireless data transmission, a revelation detailed in an addendum to a federal lawsuit filed by states including California to challenge the repeal of net neutrality rules.

Net neutrality has also become a rallying issue for Democrats in House races across the country.

Over the weekend, Wiener accused broadband companies of using robocalls to mislead seniors about the impact of his bill, and he posted a voicemail of one such alleged call on Twitter.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, who presented the bill Thursday, became the target of a different campaign in June, waged by net neutrality proponents condemning his Assembly committee's attempt to throw out contents of Wiener's bill. He faced a barrage of tweets and was captured in a viral video, as activists raised money through a crowdfunding website to place a billboard over the debacle in his district.

"We all know why we are here," said Santiago, who helped restore the bill and has since signed on as a co-author to both net neutrality proposals. "The Trump administration destroyed the as we know it."

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California senators reach agreement on net neutrality bill

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Aug 31, 2018
Watch ISPs and Internet infrastructure companies flee California like rats from a sinking ship as their ability to be profitable is significantly curtailed. Unintended consequence: deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure in California will slow down. When you mess with a competitive free market consumers reap the consequences.

Aug 31, 2018
As an aside: Verizon, following the standard practice of all Internet service providers, charges customers different rates for different bandwidth. You want lots of bandwidth, you pay more for it. Same with, you know, virtually every service in America. You want more electricity, gas, cable channels, food, better seats at the football game, a premium car, a bigger house, etc., you pay more for it.

However, Verizon also "unthrottles" bandwidth for emergency service providers during emergencies. They made a mistake in the case of the Santa Clara County Fire Department during the wildfires and owned up to it. After the wildfires the Fire Department wanted more bandwidth (non-emergency). Verizon said, sure, you just have to upgrade your plan. Net Neutrality warriors went nuts, because, dude, unlimited bandwidth Internet should be free for all creatures.

Sep 02, 2018
The main difficulty is in how the ISPs are selling their internet connections. The internet as a piece of infrastructure is like a road, but it's being sold like it was the stuff that goes on along the road.

Keeping with the analog, the ISPs say "you can drive 25 miles today" (data cap), "but If youre going to Arby's, you can only drive half the speed limit" (throttling), "and if you're going to our competitor's roads, we'll puncture your tires" (peering block), "but if instead you pay us extra money, we'll give you a VIP pass everywhere" (fast lanes).

That behaviour is called rent-seeking, and it's a harmful activity because it's based on arbitrarily restricting access to a resource to collect profit. It's artificial scarcity rather than supply and demand based profit.

This is different from normal rent, because it's like putting a coin operated lock on the bathroom of a rental apartment.

Net neutrality is fundamentally about telling the ISPs not to do that.

Sep 02, 2018
For example, in the case of Verizon vs. Comcast vs. Netflix

Netflix had servers on Verizon's network, and was paying Verizon for bandwidth. Some Netflix customers were on Comcast's network, so the data was coming through from Verizon to Comcast via a peering link, which is basically an internet connection between the ISPs and they pay each other according to net traffic or other agreement.

Comcast deliberately stalled negotiations with Verizon for upgrading the peering link to match traffic, which caused congestion for Netflix customers, which forced Netflix to buy a redundant link from Comcast and pay two companies twice the money for the same effect.

So, Netflix customers' fees went up because Comcast refused to play ball in order to raise their own profits by limiting access. This is what a non-neutral internet looks like.

Sep 02, 2018
The point of this non-neutrality is to capture the content providers, because if you can't cross the network edges between the ISPs then you have to buy bandwidth redundantly from ALL the ISPs to reach all the customers.

That means, the content providers have to seek for the largest ISPs to reach the most customers for the least cost, and that makes that ISP's position stronger against their smaller competitors. The same thing happens on the customer side: people picking out ISPs want all the services, so they choose the biggest one that has the most content providers.

This means the big ISPs become monopolies, because no competition can survive. Then you get a case of AT&T where the government tries to "control" the monopoly, but simply acts as a rubber stamp to approve of whatever price hike they dictate (regulatory capture).

So, a law must be made to force the ISPs to treat data from different sources INDISCRIMINATELY - only that will prevent this balkanization.

Sep 02, 2018
Of course there's still the loophole that Comcast used by dragging their feet with the peering upgrades to hide the fact that they were deliberately trying to throttle Netflix to become their direct customer.

That has parallels with the AT&T / Bell networks case where the company refused to route long distance calls from competing local operators in various ways, and solving that requires that ISPs should be treated as common carriers with a responsibility to carry traffic, which is what the FCC was trying to do before Trump.

So that is also an important part of what Net Neutrality means in practice. It's about setting clear rules on internet routing to prevent these underhanded tactics, because if you don't then the ISPs will always try to use them to gain a competitive advantage and secure monopolies in their areas.

Sep 02, 2018
Well stated @Eikka. In addition, you have AT&T buying DirecTV for the content, developing their own DirecTV now service, with the potential to block or throttle the content of other providers, like SlingTV or Sony VUE if they travel over AT&T's network. Or it could be any content space for that matter.

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