Posted by Justin Cunha.
The federal government’s rollback of many different rules has been a highly discussed topic throughout media, however one of the topics that is truly standing out currently is net neutrality. Net neutrality is a principle in which internet services have to treat all data equally and not charge consumers for any specific data. This was put in place by the Obama administration but was removed last year. The event created a lot of outrage as “more than 20 states” have challenged this decision in court (Kang). On Friday August 31, 2018, California lawmakers passed a bill that guaranteed full and equal access to the internet and is the fourth state to create a new net neutrality law.
The state put the bill in place in order to block internet services from slowing down, blocking, or charging for specific services. The bill not only reinstates net neutrality, but it is also even stricter than the one put in by the Obama Administration. The bill would prohibit promotions of free streaming for apps, something that telecommunication companies are pushing to endorse. Prohibiting the promotions would put businesses on a more even playing field, as there are many business who simply do not have the resources to put out these promotions. The change would also ensure that streaming websites all put out the same speed and quality without charging an extra price. These changes are all in an attempt to restrict the amount of power these services have over consumers and the industry. This would be California’s second major internet law in the last year, recently creating a privacy law that allowed users to ask companies such as social media platforms what data they are collecting on them. California is very influential to the rest of the world, with New York already considering a bill similar to this one. One example of the influence the state has was its auto emission laws which inspired many other states to follow in their direction, and in turn giving telecommunication companies worry that something similar will follow.
Though telecommunication companies are attempting to challenge this decision. The companies feel that having these strict rules put on them would hinder their ability to grow and develop. For example, the strict rules will hinder these companies from trying out different business models and thus hurts innovation. Such is the example with the promotion of free streaming for apps, as this was one major experimentation that these businesses wanted to try out. President of US Telecom even argues that, “The internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches” (Kang). This quote emphasizing that these telecommunication companies want to flow the singular federal law and that these states are simply complicating their business. The companies even went out to promise that they would not slow down or block any websites, a major concern that many consumers had. Telecommunication companies, just like California, do have a lot of influence and power that could possible stop this bill from being implanted. In 2017 they blocked a state broadband privacy bill and are looking to do the same with this bill.
Governor Brown has until the end of September to make his final decision on the matter, and sign his name on the bill. The bill is heavily consumer friendly attempting to give everyone equal access to the internet. This does restrict some freedom of these telecommunication companies, however some restrictions need to be put in place. Power can corrupt and promises can be broken, thus giving these companies too much power can be a scary prospect. So even though there are some flaws with this bill, since it is one of the strictest net neutrality bills, I do believe that California is making the right decision.
Justin is an accounting major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2021.