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Nancy Pelosi on net neutrality: California will pave the way for a federal law

Nancy Pelosi on net neutrality: California will pave the way for a federal law
[Photo: Nikki Ritcher Photography/Global Climate Action Summit/Flickr]

After plenty of drafts, committee meetings, press conferences, rallies, and a near-meltdown, California’s sweeping net neutrality bill is finally on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. And no one knows if he’ll sign it. To keep the momentum going, top House of Representatives Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, joined with the city’s state senator, Scott Wiener–the main author of the California law–for a mini rally in their hometown on Tuesday. Also on hand were other state politicians, nonprofit leaders, and an audience of mostly journalists.

Though she works for the federal government, Pelosi has taken a keen interest in this state law–even helping facilitate a come-to-Jesus between warring state Democrats to keep the effort from collapsing.

[Photo: Sean Captain]
“Once we have established California as a model of a state taking action, other states may follow,” she tells me. (A few states have preceded California, albeit with less-extensive laws.) “And then I think you will see some of corporate America say, okay, let’s have a federal law because we don’t . . . want to do different things in different states,” she says.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who led the scrapping of federal net neutrality rules, agrees, if for different reasons. “California’s micromanagement poses a risk to the rest of the country,” he told a crowd in Maine last week. “For if individual states like California regulate the internet, this will directly impact citizens in other states.”

Pai, and sympathetic telecom companies, assert the right of the FCC to preempt state internet laws. States and national Democrats disagree and believe they have the public on their side (as many polls, like this one, indicate). “If they want to go to court, they’re going to have to go to the court of public opinion,” Pelosi told the crowd.

Pelosi might return to her old job as Speaker of the House if Democrats take back the chamber in November, and I asked her how net neutrality plays into the midterm campaigns. “Young voters are not particularly partisan, but they know what issues affect their lives,” she says. “And every place I go, [net neutrality] is one of the issues . . . the millennials bring up.”

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