Los Angeles Times
By Patrick McGreevy
An Assembly panel decided Wednesday to rewrite a proposed net neutrality bill over the objection of its author, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who charged that the amendments gutted the bill and were adopted unfairly before he had a chance to testify at a public hearing.
Wiener told the Communications and Conveyance Committee that its changes would allow internet service providers such as AT&T and Comcast leeway to slow down some websites and provide fast lanes to websites that pay more, while charging websites and small businesses access fees.
“The amendments the committee adopted eviscerate the bill. It’s no longer a net neutrality bill,” Wiener told the panel after the approval of amendments submitted by the chairman, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles).
“We both believe a net neutrality bill should get out,” he told Wiener. “I’m willing to continue to engage. It’s unfair to assume that this committee should not have input.”
The vote comes just more than a week after net neutrality was officially repealed at the federal level, and just days after Wiener and Sen. Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) agreed to merge competing bills.
AT&T lobbyist Bill Devine told the panel that prior to the amendments, the Wiener bill was “too extreme” and went “far beyond” the rules approved during the Obama administration. The proposal “will harm California consumers and will damage the California economy,” he said.
“AT&T supports an open internet,” Devine added. “We do not block websites. We do not censor online content and we do not degrade internet traffic.”
Wiener was unmoved, and tried unsuccessfully to withdraw the amended bill before a vote.
“The whole point of net neutrality is that we get to decide where we go [on the internet] and the ISPs are not the ones to pick winners and losers, yet that is exactly what the amended version of the bill … will do,” he said.
The amendments were also opposed by several open-access activists, including Paul Goodman of the Greenlining Institute, who said the changes “significantly weaken the bill.”