CA and Net Neutrality

Lars Dellos, Environmentalist

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“Net Neutrality” is a term you’ve heard thrown around quite frequently, especially here in
tech-centric California. What exactly does the term mean, and why did our current Governor Jerry Brown
sign a bill defending it? And is the bill even in effect yet?
Net Neutrality means that all websites and data should be treated equally by Internet service
providers (ISPs). In the dial-up era, around when most high schoolers and college students were born, this
was the default, as dial-up uses cables and is classified as a telecommunications service. Our current WiFi
and router-based system isn’t currently classified as such, which means that without net neutrality,
companies have more freedom to individualize the speed and access level of different websites. Tech
companies that are based off the Internet, such as Google, Microsoft, Reddit, Tumblr, and Discord, along
with activist organizations like Greenpeace, all support net neutrality. They say net neutrality fosters
digital freedom and prevents unfair gatekeeping of the World Wide Web. Opponents of net neutrality are
mainly corporations based in the telecommunications and computer hardware industries, such as Oracle
and Comcast, but also include prominent economists and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.
This past July, the current FCC board, led by Trump-selected candidate Ajit Pai, voted to strike
down net neutrality on a federal level. This was met with much upset, especially due to Commissioner Pai
releasing a bizarre series of YouTube videos in defense of his stance on net neutrality. Without fear of
re-election issues, Governor Brown approved a stricter form of net neutrality proposed in the California
State Senate. Signing the bill into effect means strict regulations against ISPs, in favor of a neutral
internet. Bills like this have been implemented here in California, requiring absolute fairness to an
unprecedented level in the U.S. This decision has been met with much praise from Silicon Valley and
many California residents, but with displeasure from telecommunications officials in Washington and the
White House. Thus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently suing California over the bill. However,
as of October 25th, due to a D.C. circuit court case challenging the July national ruling, there’s a
ceasefire. Washington is not following through with the suit and California hasn’t implemented the bill.
What will occur is still up in the air, but for now, both sides seem firmly settled on their stances and ready
to take this digital fight to the courthouse.

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