In a major victory for internet defenders, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Sunday night that restores net neutrality protections — a move campaigners hope will inspire other states to fight back against the Republican-controlled FCC’s effort to disregard users and consumers by handing the web over to the powerful telecom industry.
“This is a big day for net neutrality,” said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director at the advocacy group Demand Progress. “Gov. Jerry Brown has just restored a free and open internet to the 40 million people of California — the world’s fifth largest economy and home to many major tech companies.”
After a contentious fight in the state legislature—where large internet service provides (ISPs) like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast tried to water-down or kill the bill—final passage of SB 822, spearheaded by Democratic State Senator Scott Weiner, was signed by Gov. Brown on the eve of a legislative deadline.
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As Gizmodo reports, the bill—now the most far-reaching of its kind and considered the “gold standard” for state-level protections—”prohibits ISPs from intentionally congesting or degrading web traffic for the purpose of imposing unreasonable fees on companies that connect users on ISP networks to other parts of the web, also known as interconnection. Moreover, the law explicitly defines access fees—which ISPs imposed arbitrarily on app and content providers in order to reach end users—as a form of illegal blocking.”
“This victory in California is a testament to the power of the free and open Internet to defend itself. And it’s a beacon of hope for Internet users everywhere who are fighting for the basic right to express themselves and access information without cable and phone companies controlling what they can see and do online.” —Evan Greer, Fight for the FutureEvan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, was among those championing the tireless work of activists, organizers, and regular citizens who pushed the bill in California and have been working to restore net neutrality protections nationwide since FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lobbyist and appointed by President Donald Trump, led the effort to destroy them on behalf of the telecom industry last year.
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“This victory in California is a testament to the power of the free and open Internet to defend itself. And it’s a beacon of hope for Internet users everywhere who are fighting for the basic right to express themselves and access information without cable and phone companies controlling what they can see and do online,” said Greer.
“Despite their army of lobbyists and millions spent lining the pockets of legislators, these companies continue to lose ground in the face of overwhelming cross-partisan opposition to their greedy attacks on our Internet freedom,” she added. “When all is said and done, Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T are going to wish they’d never picked a fight with Internet over net neutrality. Other states should follow California’s lead, and Congress should pass the joint resolution to reverse the FCC’s resoundingly unpopular repeal.”
Disregarding the clear popular support for such protections and showing its commitment to seeing net neutrality destroyed, the Trump administration immediately sued California after Gov. Brown’s signing on Sunday night.
As State Senator Weiner said in a statement, within minutes of the signing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions “came out of his cave and sued California to strike down the law,” but Weiner said he is confident that California will be able to fend off the federal challenge.