In an appalling turn of events today, California’s net neutrality protection bill, SB-822, got gutted in committee.
SB-822 would have been the most comprehensive attempt at net neutrality legislation yet passed, and had already cleared hurdles in the California State Senate. But this week, Los Angeles representative Miguel Santiago, who heads the Communications and Conveyance Committee, called for a vote on amendments to it, which passed with a bipartisan vote of 8-0. In a violation of transparency, the meeting was held behind closed doors without a public hearing.
Wiener had fortified the bill going into this, combining his bill with the one authored by Senate Majority Leader Kevin De León in a process called contingent enactment, meaning if both bills didn’t pass, neither would. He also received help from Nancy Pelosi, who went so far as to write Santiago urging him not to kill it. But their efforts were for naught.
AT&T and Comcast (two of Santiago’s biggest donors), along with other internet service providers, spent over $1 million in the first quarter of 2018 to kill Wiener’s bill, which would have prevented them from employing tactics like zero-rating and slowing traffic on certain sites. They got what they wanted today, as the bill now only protects net neutrality in name only.
Senator Wiener released this statement through his office:
“What happened today was outrageous. After the Senate passed SB 822, with strong net neutrality protections, the Assembly committee forced hostile amendments into the bill before even holding a hearing, before taking any public comment, and only 12 hours after making those amendments public. These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only. In negotiations leading up to the committee hearing, I expressed a willingness to negotiate the provisions of the bills – and I remain willing to negotiate – but I can’t support a weak version of net neutrality that eliminates critical provisions.I’m proud to stand with a broad coalition of labor, media, anti-poverty, social justice, consumer, and business organizations, as well as elected leaders, including Senator Kevin de Leon, in fighting for net neutrality. California should lead by example and enact the strongest net neutrality protections in the country. Passing a weak, neutered bill is exactly the wrong direction for our state.”
Wiener plans to continue with negotiations ahead of next week’s hearing in front of the State Assembly’s Privacy and Consumer Practices Committee.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.