By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California lawmakers moved on Thursday toward imposing the nation’s strictest net neutrality laws on internet providers, flying in the face of sweeping new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules seen as a win for the companies.
Members of the California Assembly voted 58-17 to send the bill to their colleagues in the state Senate, who have until midnight to pass so-called SB 822 on the final day of the legislative session or wait until next year.
If the measure passes both chambers of the Democrat-controlled state legislature it would still require approval from Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who has not said if he would sign it into law.
“We have just one final vote left to go to get the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation passed out of the legislature and onto the governor’s desk,” state Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s author, said in a statement.
“We will take nothing for granted, but we have momentum and the support of a broad and diverse coalition that understands the importance of a free and open internet for everyone,” Wiener said.
Proponents of California‘s proposed regulations contend that net neutrality rules would bar major internet providers from blocking, slowing down or giving preferential access to online content.
Critics say the restrictions limit internet providers’ ability to recoup the costs of network improvements and lead them to curb investment.
In June, the FCC under President Donald Trump repealed rules adopted during the Obama administration that barred internet service providers from blocking content or charging more for access, a move intended to establish a more level playing field or “net neutrality.”
State attorneys general and the District of Columbia asked a federal appeals court earlier this month to reinstate the Obama regulations.
They were joined in that action a week later by a coalition of trade groups representing companies including Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
The U.S. Senate voted in May to keep the Obama-era internet rules but the measure is unlikely to be approved by the House of Representatives or the White House.
(This version of the story corrects day of the week to Thursday in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Paul Tait)