It’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason. In a response to the Trump administration’s net neutrality rules, which reversed Obama era rules, two bills – Senate Bill 460 (de León) and Senate Bill 822 (Wiener) – are currently being considered by the California legislature.
We support net neutrality—an open Internet is fundamental to our modern society. However, Senate Bill 822, authored by Senator Wiener from San Francisco, would do something that is surprising with regard to net neutrality policy. It would hit Californians in the pocketbook by raising consumer prices. This is especially troubling for lower income households. Protecting net neutrality is the right thing to do, but ushering in an immediate price hike for low income consumers in California is absolutely the wrong way to get there.
The mantle of leadership in California comes with the responsibility to consider the needs of all stakeholders in the debate and not make the problem worse. Senate Bill 822, authored by Senator Wiener, fails on both those counts.
Although the stated intent of the bill is to “restore” net neutrality rules passed by President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission, it actually reaches beyond that policy in ways that could disproportionately harm low income people.
SB 822 would effectively ban popular free data offers for California consumers. These are the consumer discounts allowing users to stream movies and music without counting towards their data caps. The Obama FCC thought it was important to look at these plans, which is one thing, but it never tried to ban them as a blanket policy, which is what’s happening now with this bill.
These free data offers have made content and services more widely available to consumers, providing them with affordable access to video and music. Free data plans are particularly important for low-income households, given their above-average use of mobile broadband.
We fail to understand why Senator Wiener needs to prohibit these free data plans. This is why while we support net neutrality, we oppose this add-on. It’s not a fix, it’s a price hike.
We urge Senator Wiener to take a step back, consider low income consumers, think about how his bill will operate in the real world and remove these anti-consumer provisions that increase prices on Californians.
Surely there’s a way to protect net neutrality that doesn’t make low income consumers in California pay an immediate price.