California: The Last Stand For Net Neutrality

Late last year, led by former Verizon lawyer, Ajit Pai, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon lobbied against net neutrality. In 2015, laws were put in place by President Barack Obama to prohibit major ISPs from blocking consumer access to certain websites and applications. In December 2017, Ajit Pai and the Republicans of the house fought tooth and nail to repeal this law. In the end they succeeded. This was only on a Federal level though. After the ruling, there were a handful of states that banded together against the FCC. Washington and Oregon already put their own state-level net neutrality laws in place. This was particularly smart because the State Constitution overrides the Federal Constitution. Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana and Vermont also got on board shortly after. The latest state to join the fray is California.

Tuesday of this week, California had a hearing before the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. Various ISPs sent representatives to the state capitol in order to oppose California’s new net neutrality law. Just as a refresher, net neutrality basically means that your ISP can block websites that it does not like. AT&T can block Verizon’s website, FiOS can block AT&T and vice versa. ISPs can block sites like Twitter altogether or they can charge you a “Social Media” package that costs an extra $15 just to access the site. This package system is already implemented in some countries overseas, Brazil being the most notable. This is what California is fighting against.

Each ISPs argument is that net neutrality regulation is great for the future and is in a nutshell asking California to trust them and take their word that they won’t abuse their power but history shows that this is not the case. In 2009, users of the iPhone were not able to Skype on AT&T’s data network. In 2011, AT&T also prevented IPhone users from using FaceTime unless they got a higher monthly plan. When questioned about this particular act, AT&T stated that it was done temporarily to prevent network overload. With net neutrality being eradicated on ederal level, AT&T can resume these practices with no explanation. California has taken those first steps towards net neutrality on a state level and it is taking the necessary precautions to make sure that it is not overturned.

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