Fight for the Future


California passes historic bill to restore net neutrality

Posted 18:23 EDT on August 31, 2018
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2018
Contact: Evan Greer, 978-852-6457, press@fightforthefuture.org

Internet activism defeats fierce lobbying from big telecom. SB 822 heads next to Governor Jerry Brown, has implications for the entire country

The California State Senate just voted to approve SB 822, the strongest and most comprehensive state-level net neutrality bill in the country. The bill heads next to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. If he signs it, it’s likely to spread to other states, and will have serious implications in the fight to restore net neutrality nationwide. The current vote count is 23-11 as some members were absent. Final vote count soon, but it has the votes needed to pass.

Yesterday the bill passed the California Assembly in a landslide 61-18 vote with bipartisan support. The move 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.

“Net neutrality is the free speech fight of our generation, and we’re winning,” said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future. “If there’s one thing this victory in California shows it’s that Internet users are still royally pissed off about the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. They’re still paying attention. And they’re not going to let their elected officials get away with selling out their constituents by siding with big telecom companies.”

“No one wants their cable company to control what websites and apps they can use, how they listen to music, or where they get their news,” she added, “Governor Jerry Brown should sign this bill ASAP. 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pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to restore common sense protections that never should have been repealed in the first place. Despite Ajit Pai’s best efforts to hand control over the open internet to giant telecoms, 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 protections 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 Open Internet Order 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  targeted seniors with misleading robocalls, and ran 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. On Thursday, an investigative report 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 California legislators voted at battleforthenet.com/california, and will continue advocacy to ensure that Governor Jerry Brown signs SB 822 into law.

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