Internet activism defeats fierce lobbying from big telecom. Bill now heads to a final vote in the California Senate
The California State Assembly just passed SB 822, the strongest and most comprehensive state level net neutrality bill in the country. The overwhelming, bipartisan 61-18 vote is a major victory for Internet activists who harnessed massive public outcry to pass the bill and a resounding defeat for big telecom companies like AT&T and Comcast, who lobbied fiercely against the bill and spent large sums on campaign contributions to California legislators. SB 822 now heads for final approval in the California Senate, which passed a similar version in June, with a vote expected and needed before the end of this week.
"No one wants their cable or phone company to control what they see and do on the Internet," said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future. "California just took a huge step toward restoring protections that prevent companies like AT&T and Comcast from screwing us all over more than they already do. This historic Assembly vote is a testament to the power of the Internet. Big ISPs spent millions on campaign contributions, lobbyists, and dark ads on social networks, but in the end it was no match for the passion and dedication of net neutrality supporters using the Internet to sound the alarm and mobilize."
She added, "The California Senate must immediately approve this measure and we hope and expect that Governor Brown will sign it. Other states should then follow California’s lead, and Congress should pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to restore common sense protections that never should have been repealed in the first place. Net neutrality is not dead. It’s coming back with a vengeance."
SB 822 is widely regarded as the best state-level net neutrality bill in the country. Earlier this month it passed a crucial vote in front of the same committee where it was previously unceremoniously gutted at the behest of ISP lobbyists. The second time the bill passed with all the key protection restored, complete with the blessing of the committee chairman Miguel Santiago, who has become an ardent supporter of the bill after facing massive public outcry and the threat of crowdfunded billboards in his district.
The fight over SB 822 has implications for the entire nation, and comes amidst widespread public outcry following reports that Verizon throttled service to firefighters battling the worst wildfire in the state’s history. The now-repealed FCC net neutrality protections would have provided the possibility of redress for the fire department. SB 822 would allow the State Attorney General to investigate such incidents. More than 1,000 firefighters and other first responders have already signed on to an open letter calling for the restoration of the 2015 net neutrality protections.
Giant Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast poured enormous amounts of money into lobbying efforts to stop SB 822 and managed to gut it once in committee. They’ve even been caught funding astroturf front groups, who are targeting seniors with misleading robocalls, and running outrageous Twitter ads generating tweets targeting California assembly members that look like they’re from real constituents. One of these groups, CALinnovates, even lies about its membership, claiming Uber is a partner when the company denies it. This morning it was revealed that AT&T’s top lobbyist in Sacramento is not properly registered as a lobbyist, raising ethics questions.
Fight for the Future is a maintaining a click-to-call tool and public scoreboard of how Assembly members voted at battleforthenet.com/california