After spending more than $6 million on lobbying and even more on litigation, Big Telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon have just been dealt a crushing defeat in California, as a federal judge rejected every one of their arguments against the strongest state-level net neutrality law in the country, saying California could start enforcing it.
Judge John Mendez, a federal judge in Northern California, issued the scathing decision immediately, from the bench, after a two-hour hearing on AT&T and Comcast’s claim that California had no right to protect its residents.
“Telecom lobbyists used every dirty trick in the book to try to kill off California’s gold standard net neutrality law. They spent millions on lobbying. They drove misleading robo-calls to senior citizens. They propped up fake astroturf organizations, paid off an academic, and lied through their teeth. And they still lost,” said Evan Greer (she/her), Deputy Director of Fight for the Future, “That’s because net neutrality is one of the most popular policies of the last century. People from across the political spectrum can agree that we don’t want our cable and phone companies controlling what we can see and do on the Internet, or killing off startups to solidify the monopoly power of Big Tech giants. We’ve been saying it for years and we’ll say it again: all you telecom lobbyists are bound to lose. Now we’re one step closer to net neutrality being the law of the land. The Biden administration should act quickly to appoint a net neutrality champion (with no ties to the telecom industry) to the FCC, and Congress should pay attention to what happened in California, and ensure that any future legislative protections are at least as good as California’s law–– rock solid, with no loopholes for devious ISPs to abuse.”
SB 822 is widely regarded as the “gold standard” net neutrality law in the US. After furious Internet activism, it passed the California legislature by an overwhelming margin, complete with the blessing of the Miguel Santiago, who became 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 came 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 The now-repealed FCC Open Internet Order would have provided the possibility of redress for the fire department.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 were 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.
Fight for the Future played a significant role mobilizing grassroots momentum to pass SB 822, driving tens of thousands of calls and emails to state legislators and garnering nationwide media attention.