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California's Tough Net Neutrality Bill Prompts US Lawsuit

The FCC last year repealed rules that prevented internet companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet

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    California's Tough Net Neutrality Bill Prompts US Lawsuit
    Gov. Jerry Brown.

    California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's toughest net neutrality measure Sunday, requiring internet providers to maintain a level playing field online. The move prompted an immediate lawsuit by the Trump administration.

    Advocates of net neutrality hope the new law in the home of the global technology industry will have national implications by pushing Congress to enact national net neutrality rules or encouraging other states to follow suit.

    But the U.S. Department of Justice wants to stop the law in its tracks, arguing that it creates burdensome, anti-consumer requirements that go against the federal government's approach of deregulating the Internet.

    "Once again the California Legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

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    The law is the latest example of the nation's most populous state seeking to drive public policy outside its borders and rebuff President Donald Trump's agenda.

    Brown did not explain his reasons for signing the bill when the decision was announced, but supporters cheered it as a win for Internet freedom.

    "This is a historic day for California. A free and open internet is a cornerstone of 21st century life: our democracy, our economy, our health care and public safety systems, and day-to-day activities," said Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, the law's author.

    The Federal Communications Commission last year repealed rules that prevented internet companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

    Telecommunications companies lobbied hard to kill it or water it down, saying it would lead to higher internet and cellphone bills and discourage investments in faster internet. They say it's unrealistic to expect them to comply with internet regulations that differ from state to state.

    USTelecom, a telecommunications trade group, said California writing its own rules will create problems.

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    "Rather than 50 states stepping in with their own conflicting open internet solutions, we need Congress to step up with a national framework for the whole internet ecosystem and resolve this issue once and for all," the group said in a Sunday statement.

    Net neutrality advocates worry that without rules, internet providers could create fast lanes and slow lanes that favor their own sites and apps or make it harder for consumers to see content from competitors.

    That could limit consumer choice or shut out upstart companies that can't afford to buy access to the fast lane, critics say.

    The new law prohibits internet providers from blocking or slowing data based on content or from favoring websites or video streams from companies that pay extra.

    It also bans "zero rating," in which internet providers don't count certain content against a monthly data cap — generally video streams produced by the company's own subsidiaries and partners.

    Oregon, Washington and Vermont have approved legislation related to net neutrality, but California's measure is seen as the most comprehensive attempt to codify the principle in a way that might survive a likely court challenge. An identical bill was introduced in New York.

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    Here's a list of bills signed by Brown on Sunday:

    AB 929 by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) – Spousal support factors: domestic violence.

    AB 1619 by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) – Sexual assault: statutes of limitations on civil actions.

    AB 1976 by Assemblymember Monique Limόn (D-Goleta) – Employment: lactation accommodation.

    AB 2044 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) – Domestic violence: family court.

    AB 2289 by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) – Pupil rights: pregnant and parenting pupils.

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    AB 2302 by Assemblymember Catharine Baker (R-Dublin) – Child abuse: sexual assault: mandated reporters: statute of limitations.

    AB 2507 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) – County jails: infant and toddler breast milk feeding policy.

    AB 2626 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) – Child care services.

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    AB 2698 by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) – California state preschool programs: general child care and development programs: mental health consultation services: adjustment factors.

    AB 2785 by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) – Student services: lactation accommodations.

    AB 3082 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) – In-home supportive services.

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    AB 3109 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) – Contracts: waiver of right of petition or free speech.

    AB 3118 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) – Sexual assault: investigations.

    SB 224 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – Personal rights: civil liability and enforcement.

    SB 419 by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) – Legislature: Whistleblower protection and retaliation prevention.

    SB 820 by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) – Settlement agreements: confidentiality.

    SB 826 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – Corporations: boards of directors. A signing message can be found here.

    SB 1300 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) – Unlawful employment practices: discrimination and harassment.

    SB 1343 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) – Employers: sexual harassment training: requirements.