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California continues net neutrality rules in regret against Trump FCC



California reinstated the Open Internet rules of the Obama era on Thursday, calling into question the Trump administration's rollback efforts and setting the state on track to enforce the strongest net neutrality rules in the nation

The California bill prohibits Internet service providers blocking websites, intentionally slowing down a website or app, or accepting payments to use online services. Such arrangements are similar to those adopted by the Federal Communications Commission of the Obama era.

The battle for net neutrality has become a battle cry for Democrats since last year the FCC, under the leadership of Trump's Ajit Pai, lifted the rules for the Internet

The law passed the California Assembly on Thursday a preliminary count of 59-1

8, according to the secretary's office, and now returns to the State Senate, which had previously adopted a similar version. If it happens there again and then signed by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, California would have the nation's strongest net neutrality.

Mr. Brown did not state his position in the bill publicly.

Some experts doubt that state laws that impose network neutrality rules can withstand the potential legal challenges that are likely to emanate from telecommunications trading groups. Last year's FCC rollback claimed to anticipate state rules on net neutrality.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment.

If states can not enforce their own standards, net neutrality advocates for California legislation will support their current legal challenge to the FCC rollback, which they say is legally flawed. This case is at a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. pending.

Cable and wireless companies aggressively opposed the bill. Elizabeth Hyman, executive vice president of the Computing Technology Industry Association, a trade group, said the move would lead to an unworkable patchwork of regulations.

"The Internet is not configured to handle geographical boundaries within the country and a system of barriers and levies over the Internet will have a paralyzing effect on trade and innovation," she said in a statement.

Efforts in California received a surprising boost last week as firefighters fought against giant forest fires they had reached a speed limit. The fire brigade argued that the reduction was in breach of the net neutrality rules because they were given unlimited coverage.

Verizon communication
Inc.,

apologized and said that the restriction should have been lifted because of the emergency circumstances, but was not mistaken.

The governors of six states – Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont – have signed executive orders, reinstating some net neutrality provisions. State legislators in Oregon, Vermont and Washington have also enacted net neutrality laws.

But none of these states has gone as far as the Californian measure envisages, industry experts say. The bill prohibits, in certain cases, the increasingly popular free streaming of content called "zero rating" when it gives certain services an advantage over others. A typical example is when an Internet service provider such

AT & T
Inc.

Video is not one of their customers' mobile data plans, giving them a strong incentive to favor AT & T content over competitors.

The California Bill also mentions interconnection agreements in which an online service pays for a cable or mobile service provider to conduct its traffic – can not be used by companies such as streaming video services to open Internet rules to get around and get incorrectly higher speeds.

California Democrats say the legislation is needed to protect a competitive internet.

"I would much rather have a national standard," said Senator Scott Wiener, author of the California Bill. "But the reality is the same ISPs who complain about state patchwork regulation … are the same companies that have asked the Trump administration to eliminate protection against net neutrality."

On Wednesday, US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) Tweeted support for the bill. "I urge legislators in Sacramento to take action so that users and not their internet service providers control their online experience."

At national level, when the US Senate received 52 votes in May, Democrats scored a rare net neutrality victory -47 to lift the FCC rollback and restore the 2015 rules. But the lifting has stalled in the house.

Write to Alejandro Lazo at alejandro.lazo@wsj.com and John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com


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