FFTC: Dems 'Gutting' Calif. Net Neutrality Bill

The Senate Communications Committee of the Democratically controlled California state legislature is trying to water down the proposed net neutrality bill, which is scheduled for an important committee hearing Tuesday (April 17).

At least that is according to net neutrality rule backer Fight for the Future, which was responding to a committee analysis of the bill (SB 822), an analysis it says was a "cave" to ISPs.

Related: New York, Montana Mandate Net Neutrality

“It’s outrageous that California democrats would produce a document that looks like it was literally written by lobbyists for AT&T and Comcast," said FFTF's deputy director, Evan Greer. "They’re calling for giant loopholes that would gut SB 822 and leave California residents vulnerable to ISP scams and abuses."

FFTF is principally unhappy with the analysis' suggestion that, to make the state regs more like the FCC 2015 Open Internet order, "they may wish to consider removing provisions prohibiting zero-rating [paid prioritization] and peering agreements.

The prior FCC concluded that zero rating plans appeared to violate the 2015 order, and said it had the authority to regulate interconnection if conduct was deemed to impede an open internet.

Related: WGAW Backs California Net Neutrality Bill

Under current chair Ajit Pai, the FCC rescinded that zero rating assessment as well as the FCC authority to apply network neutrality rules on interconnections on a case-by-case agreements. Interconnections are the points where ISPs networks connect with web sites like, say Netflix.

FFTF saw those recommendations as tantamount to "gutting" the bill by creating "two huge and known loopholes that will allow ISPs to get around net neutrality protections."

"ISPs want no oversight of zero-rating and the California Committee appears to agree with chairman Pai," said FFTF, which said the bill, as it stands, "allows some zero rating, bans the worst kinds, and makes others subject to scrutiny to make sure they don't distort competition and discourage startups and minority voices."

As to not being able to regulate interconnections, FFTF said: "Any net neutrality bill that doesn’t ban circumvention at the ISPs’ edges is not a real net neutrality bill."

Related: Montana Net Neutrality Order Gets Porker Award

The FCC on Dec. 14 voted to eliminate the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, as well as the general conduct standard that allowed the FCC to regulate practices, and potential practices, not covered by those rules.

The FCC rollback of those 2015 Open Internet Order rules has not yet gone into effect, but California and other states have been proposing and passing legislation, or in some cases, governors have signed executive orders, to create state net neutrality regimes.

The FCC's Dec. 14 Restoring Internet Freedom reg rollback explicitly preempted such state efforts, so a legal fight is brewing on that front.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.