California Proposes State Level Network Neutrality Law

While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did try to ban state level laws protecting network neutrality, that isn’t stopping California from trying.

In a sense, it is actually quite odd to see network neutrality become a partisan issue in the US. The reality is that network neutrality should be a bi-partisan issue. If you are what America considers left leaning, network neutrality makes sense because it supports free speech. If you are what America calls right leaning, network neutrality is actually a good thing. This is because it allows for the free market online to blossom and it is free from some of the government regulation that is so often criticized.

Of course, in the topsy-turvy world of today, network neutrality is now a partisan issue in the US. Democratic leaning people are supportive of it and some (certainly not all) Republican leaning people are against it. That leads to the middle of December of last year where the FCC repealed network neutrality laws. The 3-2 vote went down party lines. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the battle is over. While the US waits for this decision to make it to the register, many are trying to find ways to fight this.

Part of the repeal involved rules forbidding state governments from enacting their own network neutrality laws. The reasoning this was included was because network infrastructure crosses state lines. Having different state laws in different states would be cost prohibitive for ISPs. That, at least, is one reason why those who scrapped the network neutrality rules say this had to be included.

Apparently, the rules forbidding state level governments from implementing their own laws protecting network neutrality is not proving to be a deterrent. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pointing out that California is proposing their own network neutrality laws anyway:

Wiener’s proposed legislation, co-authored by ten state assembly and Senate Democrats, has a number of ways to ensure that telecom companies operating in California adhere to the principals of net neutrality. Washington and New York have similar bills in progress and Wiener isn’t even the only California legislator proposing legislation, as state Sen. Kevin de León has introduced a net neutrality bill as well.

The substance of the legislation is still in the works, but the intent is to leverage the state’s assets as a means to require networks to operate neutrally. In essence, the California bill would require net neutrality of businesses that operate within the state of California if they are relying on state infrastructure or state funding to provide the service.

EFF supports this bill, as the FCC’s actions in December mean states must provide whatever protections they can to safeguard the Internet as we know it. However, state laws can only restore network neutrality for some Americans, and only a federal rule can ensure that everyone in the country has access to a neutral net.

Some would argue that these bills are doomed to fail. Even if that is the case, it gets lawmakers on record to say whether or not they support network neutrality. So, at minimum, this has the potential to make ground politically. It also proves that network neutrality is not a dead issue yet.

It’s unclear what is in the bill, but no doubt further details will emerge soon.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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