Following the FCC’s abolition of national net neutrality regulations on December 14, California was one of the first states to act, with Democratic state Senator Scott Weiner (who represents San Francisco) announcing plans to draft legislation. But the bill he introduced on January 3, the first day of the 2018 session, is essentially a placeholder. It spells out the means California will use to enforce net neutrality, without specifying what net neutrality is. Running about 150 words, it’s scarcely longer than the legislative digest that accompanies it.
That contrasts with two nearly identical bills introduced by Washington State representatives the week of the FCC vote. An 850-word bill by Democratic Rep. Drew Hansen, for instance, specifies what the state will require of internet service providers, including measures against technical tricks for surreptitiously providing “fast lanes” to content providers.
California’s legislation will grow, says Wiener’s office, as legislators work out details. It has six co-authors (including Wiener) on the Senate side, and five Assembly members working on a companion bill. All the supporters are Democrats. Rather than regulate ISPs outright, and risk a slap from federal authorities, the bill mostly uses state authority to make life uncomfortable for ISPs. Only those observing the to-be-defined net neutrality principles would have access to state contracts, cable franchises, and right-of-way for laying cable or utility poles for installing cellular transmitters. The mini bill also mentions the intention to strengthen “the state’s consumer protection and deceptive and unfair business practice laws.”