In the morning before S.B. 822 was to get its first hearing in front of a California Assembly committee before the cameras were on to catch it, the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance introduced and got a vote on amendments that substantially weakened the net neutrality provisions of S.B. 822. EFF received word that was his intent and we were disappointed he would carry out such a bait and switch on behalf of AT&T and Comcast.
Chair Miguel Santiago, along with seven other Assembly members both Republican and Democratic, voted for those amendments. Amendments proposed at 10 pm the night before the hearing. Amendments voted on before the bill was heard and before the bill’s author, State Sen. Scott Wiener, could argue against them. Amendments voted on before the witnesses and Wiener could argue for the bill as written.
This comes after the committee chair refused a move to join S.B. 822 and S.B. 460 so that there was a single net neutrality package rather than two bills. That proposal was rejected in favor of new amendments that stripped net neutrality protections right out including provisions that banned discriminatory zero rating that hurt low income Internet users.
Assemblymembers Quirk-Silva, Kamlager-Dove, Holden, Bonta, and Low abstained or were absent while the remaining Democratic and Republican Assembly members joined together to vote in hostile amendments that gutted a whole array of consumer protections of the bill.
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Here are just some of the things they green-lighted with their amendment:
- AT&T can continue to violate net neutrality under its zero rating program and will have even more power to discriminate over the internet with its ownership of Time Warner.
- Comcast can create arbitrary charges on all websites and services simply for the "privilege" of allowing its customers to connect to those websites and services, which has been banned under federal law for years.
- Comcast will be free to engage in past abuses over the interconnection market that resulted in consumer access to video services being slowed down arbitrarily in exchange for extortion fees.
The result is, no matter what, not net neutrality.
Giant ISPs like AT&T and Comcast have worked overtime to defeat this bill, including donating a lot of money. Between the money, the disingenuous arguments of the telecoms, and the manipulated process that forced the hostile amendments into the bill, what happened this week shows just what giant corporations can accomplish with willing legislators. But that does not mean the net neutrality battle is over in California. Everyone, including Californians, deserves access to a free and open Internet. As the bill moves forward EFF will continue to support the work of Sen. Scott Wiener who has vowed to fight on.