CA Net Neutrality Bill Set For Vote — But There’s A Catch

SACRAMENTO—The California state senate appears set to vote this week on what net neutrality advocates are calling the “gold standard” of state-level legislation protecting an open internet. Authored by San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener, the bill — SB 822 — applies the similarly tough standards that the FCC voted in December to repeal at a national level to any internet service provider doing business in the state.

According to data released earlier this month, California recently surpassed the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, meaning that regulations imposed on internet service providers in the state would carry considerable impact nationwide.

But there may be a problem with the bill, according to an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Sentinel earlier this month. The Sentinel is the largest-circulation African-American newspaper in the West Coast states.

The bill prohibits ISPs from “intentionally blocking content, speeding up or slowing down traffic, engaging in paid-prioritization, requiring consideration from edge providers for access to an ISP’s end users, and selectively zero-rating certain content.”

While most of those provisions are considered essential to net neutrality legislation, it is the “zero rating” provision that could cause a financial hit for heavy data users, which would include many porn consumers. Low income internet users would be hit especially hard, according to the op-ed by Charisse Bremond-Weaver, CEO of the community development organization Brotherhood Crusade.

But what is the practice of “zero-rating?” According to the online rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, “zero-rating practices allow ISPs to pick and choose services that don’t count against a customer’s data cap.”

In other words, zero-rating is a fancy term for “free data plans.” And according to Bremond-Weaver, banning zero-rating practices will cause a price hike for many internet users—a hike that like most price increases will hit low-income consumers the hardest.

“We support net neutrality—an open Internet is fundamental to our modern society,” wrote Bremond-Weaver. “However, Senate Bill 822, authored by Senator Wiener from San Francisco, would do something that is surprising with regard to net neutrality policy. It would hit Californians in the pocketbook by raising consumer prices.”

Bremond-Weaver concluded by urging Wiener to strip the zero-rating ban from his net neutrality bill.

“We fail to understand why Senator Wiener needs to prohibit these free data plans. This is why while we support net neutrality, we oppose this add-on,” she wrote. “It’s not a fix, it’s a price hike.”

According to the EFF explanation, zero-rating plans are just a way for ISPs to favor their own content over competitors, because they can select which providers fall under the “free” plans.

“A low data cap combined with zero-rating its own content incentivizes people to use the ISP’s service to watch its content, again artificially increasing its bottom line,” the EFF wrote on its website on Tuesday.

Photo via Sen. Scott Wiener Facebook video capture 

Originally published at: https://avn.com/business/articles/legal/california-net-neutrality-bill-set-to-pass-but-theres-a-catch-778755.html

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