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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Democratic legislators ended a dispute over a proposed Net-neutrality bill Thursday, agreeing on a measure that would bar Internet service providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down websites and video, as well as charging websites fees for fast lanes.

State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco last month accused fellow lawmakers of eviscerating his legislation in committee and said he no longer could support the bill. But Wiener and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles appeared together at a news conference to announce a compromise proposal.

"Collectively this will be the most comprehensive and the strongest Net-neutrality protection in the United States," Wiener said at a Capitol news conference. The new measure, Wiener said, is a "strong Net-neutrality proposal that will protect California consumers and set the standard for pro-Internet efforts throughout the country."

"As Internet service providers and media companies like AT&T and Time Warner consolidate, Net neutrality is more important than ever," he added.

Two measures by Wiener and Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles address concerns over the June 11 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal Net-neutrality rules approved during President Barack Obama's administration.

Without those regulations, Internet service providers can slow or block services like online video or calling unless fees are paid, the senator charged.

That, Wiener said, allows Internet service providers to limit choice and increase prices, with disproportionate harm falling on low-income residents. To win back Wiener's support, the agreement restores previously removed provisions to his bill. The compromise legislation would prohibit Internet service providers from charging websites fees for faster service while blocking or slowing websites that do not pay extra.

Senate Bill 822 also would bar Internet service providers from circumventing the rules at the point where data enter their network and from levying access fees to reach Internet service customers, officials said.

In addition, providers would have to count the content and websites they own against subscribers' data caps.

It must be approved by the full Assembly and Senate to be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration.

De Leon's SB460 will focus on requiring Internet service providers that have state contracts to comply with the principles of Net neutrality.

"In the aftermath of [President Donald] Trump's destruction of the Internet, we are advancing legislation with the strongest Net-neutrality and consumer protections in the nation," said Santiago, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance.

Santiago said a free and open Internet is tied to "the fight for social change and progressive values," adding, "Citizens United, the Janus decision and now the threat of a Supreme Court nomination under Trump makes this Net-neutrality legislation more important than ever."

Republicans said the regulations threaten heavy-handed government intrusion that would stifle innovation on the Internet. Telecommunications companies oppose the regulations.

AT&T representatives, who have opposed both previous versions of the legislation as overreaching, did not provide an immediate comment on the amended bill Thursday.

Information for this article was contributed by Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times.

Business on 07/06/2018

Print Headline: Democrats advance strict Net-neutrality rules for California

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