Two weeks ago, the strongest state-level net neutrality bill was gutted in a committee hearing by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, which led many observers to believe the bill was dead thanks to the power of giant telecoms like Comcast and AT&T. But the move sparked an unprecedented public outcry from Californians, who made thousands of phone calls, flooded social media, and crowdfunded more than $14,000 in order to put up a billboard in Chairman Santiago’s district. Today, in a win for the open Internet, Santiago announced that all of SB 822’s core protections are being restored and that he’s now a co-author of the bill.
This can only be described as a massive win for the diverse coalition that supported SB 822.
Online grassroots efforts drove Santiago back to the table to negotiate with Senator Scott Wiener, the author of SB 822. Based on the reports, we won back all of the key protections that had been ripped out of the bill, including the essential ban on harmful zero-rating schemes like AT&T’s zero-rating of its video sites and services, while counting all other video against users’ artificially low data caps.
Given these developments, Fight for the Future has put the Santiago billboard campaign on "pause." If these reports are confirmed once the final text of the bill is released, the funds raised for the billboard will be used to support activism focused on passing SB 822 through the Assembly. If other California Assembly members attempt to block the bill on behalf of big donors like AT&T, they can be targeted with billboards as well to ensure their constituents know what they’re doing.
Fight for the Future issued the following statement, which can be attributed to Deputy Director Evan Greer (pronouns: she/her):
We appreciate Assemblymember Miguel Santiago’s change of heart. This should be a lesson to other lawmakers: don’t mess with net neutrality unless you’re prepared to feel your constituents’ wrath. Today’s news shows the power of the Internet to overcome business as usual and win real victories for the public.
The protections that have been restored to SB 822, based on today’s reports, are essential for preventing Internet providers like AT&T and Comcast from abusing their monopoly power to control what we do online by turning the internet into a playground they control. The protections against discriminatory zero rating schemes are especially essential for low-income Californians, who are disproportionately affected by low data caps, and who would be forced to experienced a second-class Internet where their ISP chooses what they are most likely to see, how they stream video, and where they get their news.
Strong net neutrality protections are essential for a functional democracy. The open Internet is one of the most important tools we have for challenging injustice and tyranny. The stakes are high and what happens in California will have an impact on Internet users everywhere. We will continue to fight tooth and nail to ensure that SB 822 passes the Assembly with all key protections intact.