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Net-Neutrality Fight Comes to Sacramento Today

Net neutrality supporters say they fear that industry lobbyists will try to water down the proposal under consideration in Sacramento.(Electronic Frontier Foundation).
Net neutrality supporters say they fear that industry lobbyists will try to water down the proposal under consideration in Sacramento.(Electronic Frontier Foundation).
April 17, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A showdown over net neutrality comes to California today - with a hearing in the State Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

Senate Bill 822 would forbid internet service providers in the Golden State from prioritizing or slowing down any given website, and from charging a fee for faster internet speeds.

Ryan Singel, the founder of a Silicon Valley startup called Contextly, says ISPs should not be able to charge big money for higher upload speeds - because that would put smaller companies at a huge disadvantage.

"Without that protection, the cost of starting a company becomes much higher," he says. "Because you're going to have to not just pay for your own servers but then pay AT&T, pay Verizon, pay Comcast and pay CenturyLink."

When the FCC repealed Obama-era neutrality rules in December, Chairman Agit Pai said the regulations are too onerous for ISPs, which he believes should not be regulated like a utility. A bill in the U.S. Senate to reinstate net-neutrality rules nationally currently needs just one vote to pass, but it would face an uphill battle getting past the House and the president.

Singel says for now the best path is to pass net neutrality in huge states such as California, which has often been a leader in progressive legislation.

"We've set rules for emissions and for privacy, and often what that does is send a signal to other states to enact those same level of protections, or companies just find that it's easier to follow the California rules in all of their operations," he explains.

Lobbyists on both sides have been working for and against SB 822 for weeks, with consumer groups arguing that it maintains an even playing field online - while industry groups say it would make the California Public Utilities Commission too powerful.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA