The Internet's Future Relies on California Guarding Net Neutrality

A federal court ruling opened the door to state action but makes no guarantees.

(TNS) — The future of the internet as we know it rests in California’s ability to defend what is widely regarded as the nation’s most robust net neutrality law.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for consumers and small businesses seeking to preserve equal access to the internet: The outcome will determine whether users will have the ability to access and watch material of their choosing from web sites at an affordable price.

A federal appeals court ruling Tuesday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 misguided repeal of net neutrality protections. The ruling opens the door for broadband companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to take control of the internet by slowing down or even blocking traffic from web sites. The internet service providers (ISPs) stand to rake in billions by charging web sites more for faster internet access.

But the federal appeals court overruled the FCC’s claim that it could prevent state governments from establishing their own net neutrality standards.

California did just that in 2018 when then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s model legislation requiring ISPs to to treat all web traffic equally. The state agreed to hold off on enforcing its law until the federal appeals court could decide whether the FCC regulations prevented states from enforcing their laws. Four other states — New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — have passed laws or resolutions protecting net neutrality principles. Nearly 30 other states are considering some form of net neutrality laws.

All eyes will be on California as it tries to prove that its legislation does not directly conflict with the FCC regulations. It won’t be an easy task. California’s argument will likely rest on its right to protect consumers, a position bolstered by the FCC’s insistence that it does not have the authority to regulate broadband providers.

Tech pioneers such as World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and “Father of the internet” Vint Cerf are strong net neutrality advocates. Berners-Lee in 2017 argued that “to reach its full potential, the internet must remain a permissionless space for creativity, innovation and free expression. … (The FCC) wants to step back and allow concentrated market players to pick winners and losers online. Their talk is all about getting more people connected, but what is the point if your ISP only lets you watch the movies they choose, just like the old days of cable?”

Ultimately, Congress needs to step in and write a national net neutrality law that will settle the issue, once and for all. But don’t hold your breath waiting for it. A bill providing net neutrality protections sailed through the House of Representatives in April, but languishes in the Senate.

That’s no big surprise. Broadband companies gave Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell $251,110 prior to the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality protections. All told, broadband providers have poured more than $600 million into their lobbying efforts in the last 20 years.

Until Congress acts, it’s up to the states to protect consumers and businesses. California should take the lead by fiercely defending its net neutrality law, making it the standard for others to adopt.

©2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?
As more state and local jurisdictions have placed a priority on creating sustainable and resilient communities, many have set strong targets to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with commercial and residential buildings.
As more people get vaccinated and states begin to roll back some of the restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic — schools, agencies and workplaces are working on a plan on how to safely return to normal.
The solutions will be a permanent part of government even after the pandemic is over.
See simple ways agencies can improve the citizen engagement experience and make online work environments safer without busting the budget.
Whether your agency is already a well-oiled DevOps machine, or whether you’re just in the beginning stages of adopting a new software development methodology, one thing is certain: The security of your product is a top-of-mind concern.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2022, over half of the workforce will require significant reskilling or upskilling to do their jobs—and this data was published prior to the pandemic.
Part math problem and part unrealized social impact, recycling is at a tipping point. While there are critical system improvements to be made, in the end, success depends on millions of small decisions and actions by people.