VOICES--Today the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality — a terrible step for the future of a free and open internet and for our democracy. In January when the State Legislature reconvenes, I will introduce legislation to require net neutrality in California.
Net neutrality is essential to our 21st century democracy, and we need to ensure people can access websites and information freely and fairly. Under President Obama, the FCC adopted a requirement for internet service providers to treat websites equally and not to play favorites based on who pays more. The rule prevented “throttling” of websites and helped ensure an open internet.
By repealing net neutrality requirements, the Trump-controlled FCC is allowing internet service providers to decide which websites will be easily accessible and which won’t. Providers are now free to manipulate web traffic on their networks, which means they can speed or slow traffic to certain sites and even block access.
Particularly in this authoritarian age — with constant attacks from Washington on our democratic values and the free press — we must have a free and open internet. Our democracy depends on it. We can’t have an Internet that favors access for those who pay to boost their web traffic or, worse, that blocks websites because they aren’t willing to shell out money. That is not what our our democracy is about, and it shouldn’t be how our internet works.
Currently, California doesn’t have its own net neutrality regulations, because we have deferred to the federal requirement. My legislation will bring net neutrality requirements to California. There are several ways we can bring net neutrality to California. California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages.
We are exploring all of these options and welcome additional ideas as we work over the next 60 days to craft the bill and formally introduce it. We are working closely with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and other organizations dedicated to a free and open internet.
If the FCC won’t stand up for a free and open internet, California will.
(Scott Wiener is a California State Senator. Urbanist. Environmentalist. Advocate for transit, housing, parks, and education. Democrat. #Resist www.scottwiener.com)