California governor signs state law to reinstate 'net neutrality'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown late on Sunday signed legislation to restore open internet protections known as net neutrality in the state after the Trump administration repealed the rules in December 2017.

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FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Net Neutrality, Toyah and Lance Brown Eyes, protest the FCC's decision to repeal the program in Los Angeles, California, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot/File Photo

The bill sets up a clash with the Federal Communications Commission, which said in repealing the Obama-era rules that it was preempting states from setting their own rules governing internet access but requiring providers disclose any changes in access.

The new rules were a win for providers like Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, but the net neutrality repeal was opposed by internet companies like Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc.

Under President Donald Trump, the FCC voted 3-2 in December along party lines to reverse rules that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who led the effort to reverse net neutrality, did not immediately comment late on Sunday.

But earlier this month, Pai criticized California’s legislature for approving the net neutrality measure.

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FILE PHOTO: California Governor Jerry Brown delivers his final state of the state address in Sacramento, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

In a speech, Pai had called California’s legislation “a radical, anti-consumer internet regulation bill that would impose restrictions even more burdensome than those adopted by the FCC in 2015.”

Gigi Sohn, a former senior aide to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who ran the agency when the net neutrality rules were adopted, said the California law “is now the model for all future state and federal legislation ... this is what internet users across the political spectrum have said they want by overwhelming majorities.”

Jonathan Spalter, who heads USTelecom, an industry trade group, said California’s law will not “help advance the promise and potential of California’s innovation DNA.”

He argued that instead of 50 separate state laws, “we need Congress to step up with a national framework for the whole internet ecosystem and resolve this issue once and for all.”

In August, 22 states and a coalition of trade groups representing major tech companies urged a federal appeals court to reinstate the rules.

The U.S. Senate voted in May to reinstate the net neutrality rules, but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives and the White House also opposes it.

The FCC in December handed ISPs sweeping new powers to recast how Americans use the internet, as long as they disclose changes. The new rules took effect in June but providers have made no changes in access.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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