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It’s not enough that big telecom companies continue to fight net neutrality with millions of dollars in lobbying. They’re also reaching out to elderly voters—with robocalls, no less—in an effort to convince them to vote against net neutrality measures and claiming that otherwise, their phone bills will increase.
“Your Assembly member will be voting on a proposal by San Francisco politicians that could increase your cellphone bill by $30 a month and slow down your data,” the robocaller says, according to Techdirt. “We can’t afford higher cell phone bills. We can’t afford slower data. We can’t afford Senate Bill 822.”
The call is paid for by a legal reform group called the Civil Justice Association of California. This group has been working in opposition of California’s proposed net neutrality law and has ties with AT&T. Another AT&T-backed coalition, CALinnovates, has been posting ads on Facebook and Twitter to fight net neutrality measures in the state.
The robocall cites a nonprofit, the Congress of California Seniors, at the beginning of its automated message which has led some, including California state Sen. Scott Weiner, to believe the robocall is specifically targeting seniors with its message.
We’re now dealing with a straight-up misinformation campaign on our #NetNeutrality bill, #SB822: industry robo-calls to seniors falsely telling them that protecting net neutrality will increase their phone bills by $30. Scaring seniors w lies about their financial security? Gross pic.twitter.com/1Lgop6KwSl— Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) August 25, 2018
The California Senate bill it opposes, SB 822, is one proposed by Weiner. It would not raise anyone’s phone bills.
That bill is actually one of two separate measures, SB 822 and SB 460, that were passed in the state’s senate. Together, these two rules would give citizens the same level of net neutrality protections as the 2015 Open Internet Order, the rules the Trump administration rolled back earlier this year.
Rather than passing these rules separately, it looks like the two bills may be combined into one joint measure. If the unified California bill passes, it will likely set a precedent for the rest of the country. Unfortunately, according to Gizmodo, it’s possible that bill could end up watered down and largely ineffective depending on who pens it.
As Weiner told Motherboard, these bills don’t do anything more than restore the status quo companies operated by after 2015. ISPs and other companies still grew and profited under the rules; they weren’t hiking rates unnecessarily or laying off workers. These robocalls and other measures are a misinformation campaign.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.