Yesterday, San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener announced that his net neutrality bill, SB-822, had been resurrected with all its protections intact after being left for dead two weeks ago.
This is a stunning turn of events for Senator Wiener. In an effort to protect his bill from being watered-down or gutted in committee, he combined his bill with a similar one authored by Senate Majority Leader and US Senate candidate Kevin de León. Wiener’s bill focused on such provisions as banning zero-rating, stopping interconnection disputes that would keep you from your favorite sites, and prohibiting websites from charging access fees; de León’s bill centered on preventing ISPs who violated net neutrality rules from obtaining state contracts.
Sadly, their fears were proven when Los Angeles Senator Miguel Santiago, chairman of the Senate Communications and Conveyance Committee, scrapped all the provisions that they had fought so hard to include, rendering it a pro-net neutrality bill in name only. Even worse, it was all done behind closed doors and without any debate. Although Wiener attempted to withdraw the bill, it passed the committee anyway. In the wake of this failure, he announced that he would go back to the drawing board with his colleagues to ensure they passed the strongest version of the bill possible. A little more than two weeks later, he, along with de León, Santiago, and Alameida County Senator Rob Bonta, announced at a press conference yesterday that they had successfully restored it to its original form. All expressed gratitude towards each other for working together, as well as giving copious credit to their staff members, who all worked tirelessly to make sure this came together.
Santiago, who now supports the provisions he fought against last month, used the press conference to offer support and thanks to his colleagues, saying, “California will lead once again, where the rest of the nation has been unable to do so.” He also offered an olive branch to red state legislatures as well, reminding them that “when people find out you’re restricting the information they receive, they are going to be outraged, and they are going to join this movement.”
De León spoke with a prescient sense of what’s at stake when he said, “For some folks, this is quite frankly about life and death…not [just] the best summer jams on Spotify.” Speaking directly to Trump and his FCC, who have destroyed net neutrality protections nationwide, he warned them, “We will outlast you, we will out-negotiate you, and we will do everything in our power to defend California’s consumers and protect net neutrality in our state.”
Wiener, who has fought for this bill since the repeal last December, will reveal the revised version of the bill when the Senate returns after summer recess on August 6th. “The internet is at the heart of so much of modern life,” he said. “It is not something that’s optional. It is so essential for our functioning society.”
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.