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California lawmakers pass net neutrality bill, heads to governor's desk

Gov. Jerry Brown has not said whether he'll sign the bill, which would likely draw a lawsuit from the industry.
Image: Scott Wiener, Rob Bonta, Kevin de Leon
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is congratulated by lawmakers after his net neutrality bill was approved by the state Senate, in Sacramento, California, on Friday. The bill, which seeks to revive regulations repealed last year by the Federal Communications Commission, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.Rich Pedroncelli / AP
/ Source: Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether California should have the nation's strongest protections for net neutrality rules intended to ensure a level playing field on the internet after the measure cleared the final legislative hurdle on Friday.

The state Senate approved the bill over stiff opposition from internet service providers, opening another front in the war between California and President Donald Trump.

The milestone was celebrated by net neutrality advocates who hope it will help drive a national policy prohibiting internet companies from favoring certain websites over others.

"The premise fundamentally of net neutrality is that we as individuals get to decide where we go on the internet as opposed to be told by internet service providers," said Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who wrote the bill.

The Federal Communications Commission has repealed Obama-era net neutrality protections, leading many activists to fear that internet providers could create fast lanes and slow lanes that favor their own sites and apps or make it harder for consumers to see content from their competitors.

That could limit consumer choice or shut out upstart companies that can't afford to buy access to the fast lane, critics worry.

Internet companies say they're committed to upholding net neutrality principles but it's unrealistic for them to comply with different regulations around the country.

The measure "undercuts California's long history as a vibrant catalyst for innovation and technology," Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of the industry group USTelecom, said in a statement.

Brown has not said whether he'll sign the bill, which would likely draw a lawsuit from the industry.

The bill would prohibit internet providers from blocking or slowing data based on its content or from favoring websites or video streams from companies that pay extra.

It also would ban so-called "zero rating," in which internet providers don't count certain content against a monthly data cap. It would prohibit, for example, AT&T from exempting videos from CNN or other outlets it owns from a monthly data cap that applies to competitors.