California Lawmakers Now Have Two Net Neutrality Bills Before Them

The state Senate now has two net neutrality bills to consider.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León on Thursday introduced his own bill to force Internet service companies operating within the state to adhere to net neutrality rules that were overturned nationally last month by the Federal Communications Commission. But the commission warned late Thursday that it plans to exert its full authority to override any state’s attempt to create its own net neutrality laws.

The Los Angeles Democrat’s legislation comes one day after Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, introduced a similar bill co-authored by a dozen state Senate and Assembly members.

However, the bill authored by de León — who has emerged as the challenger to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein later this year — is on a faster track and is scheduled to be heard by a state Senate committee Thursday.

“The FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality is extremely dangerous,” de León said in a statement.

Both bills seek to put back in place, at least within California, Obama-era regulations that were enacted in 2015 to prevent Internet service providers from favoring some websites and apps over others. Last month, the Republican-led FCC overturned those nationwide rules by a 3-2 vote, a move big Internet providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast hailed as a needed step away from an unnecessary layer of regulations.

The FCC officially rescinded the regulations in a final ruling released Thursday. The 539-page document included a ruling that high-speed Internet access should be governed by uniform federal regulations rather than a “patchwork that includes separate state and local requirements.” The ruling also asserted the FCC’s legal right to “preempt any state or local measures that would effectively impose rules or requirements that we have repealed or decided to refrain from imposing in this order.”

That would put the commission at legal odds with both of the proposed California measures.

“We fully expect this will be challenged,” said Regina Costa, telecommunications policy director for the Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group.

De León’s SB460 would make it illegal for Internet service companies to employ tactics such as requiring online companies to pay for traffic priority or preferential treatment or mislead consumers about whether they are adhering to net neutrality principles.

It would also direct the state Public Utilities Commissions to establish net neutrality requirements.

Both Wiener and De León signaled their plans to introduce bills last month in publicly posted videos. When asked for comment on the competing bills Thursday, Wiener in a statement would only say he was “glad” that De León “supports adopting net neutrality in California.”

However, Wiener said he didn’t want to rush into a bill that was a “limited stopgap approach.”

“There are significant legal complications that need to be dealt with and that requires us to take our time and not rush this process,” he said. “It is also critical that the Legislature adopt rules to establish net neutrality, and not delegate our authority to an unelected body like the Public Utilities Commission. We all saw what the unelected members of the Federal Communications Commission did to net neutrality.”

De León was not available for comment Thursday, a representative said.