The California state Assembly amended what advocates considered a “gold standard” net neutrality bill on Wednesday, a move that critics say waters down protections that were lauded when the bill passed through the state Senate last month.
The Senate’s bill would have reinstated net neutrality rules within California that were rescinded on a federal level by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. The bill would have placed tight restrictions on internet service providers (ISPs) and barred them from slowing down, speeding up, or blocking specific internet traffic.
That bill, SB 822, was heralded as a “gold standard” for states looking to pass their own net neutrality laws in light of the FCC’s decision. After passing in the Senate, advocates were optimistic it would be passed through the Democrat-controlled state Assembly and eventually be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D).
However, on Wednesday state lawmakers in the Assembly stripped the bill of several provisions that were seen as key by net neutrality proponents.
“These amendments eviscerated the bill—it is no longer a net neutrality bill,” State Sen. Scott Wiener said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I will state for the record … I think it was fundamentally unfair.”
Fight for the Future, an internet rights advocacy group that is planning nation-wide events to support a Congress-led effort to save net neutrality, said ISPs are some of the “top” donors for Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, one of the people behind the change of the California law.
“The level of corruption we just witnessed literally makes me sick to my stomach,” Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “These California Democrats will go down in history as among the worst corporate shills that have ever held elected office. Californians should rise up and demand that at their Assembly members represent them. The actions of this committee today are an attack not just on net neutrality, but on our democracy.”
As the Chronicle points out, the future of California’s net neutrality bill is uncertain. It could be tabled as it heads to another committee for consideration.
In the meantime, advocacy groups like Fight for the Future say they are going to ask supporters of the bill to call legislators.
Other states have taken it upon themselves to pass net neutrality bills or executive orders after the FCC’s vote last year.