SACRAMENTO (CN) –Pursuing their own net neutrality laws, California lawmakers on Monday approved a bill that would prevent internet service providers from charging websites for quicker access.
In a 21-12 party-line vote, the state Senate approved rules meant to curb AT&T and other providers from slowing or throttling internet access in the Golden State.
State Senate President Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, painted Senate Bill 460 as a critical consumer protection measure that would prohibit providers from “sabotaging” internet access.
“No company should get to decide how you use the internet, no company should have the power to slow down your connection and no company should be able to hold your ideas hostage or demand a ransom to access your favorite streaming service or website,” de Leon said.
De Leon and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, have proposed similar bills after the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial decision in December to stash net-neutrality rules. The Democrats called the FCC’s move partisan politics and accused the Trump administration of “abdicating” its duty to protect internet users.
Wiener unsuccessfully urged bipartisan support for the bill, arguing that net neutrality has become a First Amendment issue. He said if the federal government won’t act to protect internet access, California will.
“It’s at the heart of our democracy,” Wiener said. “We now are forced to step in.”
The measure passed without a Republican yes vote and will be taken up in the Assembly next month.
State Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, downplayed the impact of the FCC’s 3-2 vote to kill net neutrality. He accused Democrats of mischaracterizing the decision “for political gain.”
“This bill is nothing more than a political vehicle to sensationalize a presidential order that will do nothing but confuse consumers,” Stone said. “Let’s keep the politics on the campaign trail and off the Senate floor.”
Under the legislation, internet providers would be prohibited from blocking lawful content, throttling or using fast lanes. Companies would also have to promise under penalty of perjury not to restrict access in order to sign new contracts with state agencies.
First Amendment groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union are backing the Democrats’ net neutrality bills, along with the Utility Reform Network.
Business groups and internet providers have lined up against SB 460, including AT&T, Verizon and the California Chamber of Commerce.
Similar net neutrality legislation has been proposed in Congress and in states like New York, Washington and Montana. Meanwhile dozens of states have filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, attempting to freeze the FCC’s Open Internet Order.