Soapbox

Why give power over net neutrality to CPUC?

What is net neutrality?

The F.C.C. repealed rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how it works.
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The F.C.C. repealed rules that require internet providers to give consumers equal access to all content online. Here’s how it works.

California’s battle with the Trump administration rages daily, as it should. But we need to give greater thought to our approach to net neutrality, and Tim Molina’s erroneous take on Senate Bill 822 pins the tail on the wrong donkey (“California must fight to keep net neutrality,” Viewpoints, April 17).

 
Opinion

While concerns about abuse by internet service providers are vastly overstated, the debate has ginned up plenty of fear and animosity. Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, the author of SB 822, takes a good idea – ensuring equal access to the internet and banning providers from prioritizing their own data – and executes it in a ham-handed way.

Mike Montgomery headshot

Despite Wiener’s January statement that the Legislature shouldn’t delegate its authority on net neutrality, SB 822 does just that by handing oversight authority to the California Public Utilities Commission. This is the same CPUC under criminal investigation for being too cozy with the power companies it regulates.

It’s unfortunate that Molina resorts to fear-mongering on public safety, arguing that without SB 822 first responders won’t be able to quickly react to emergencies. He conveniently ignores FirstNet, the network dedicated to first responders that can pre-empt the consumer network during emergencies. If public safety were a paramount concern, the bill wouldn’t entrust the CPUC to safeguard the very consumers it was supposed to protect in San Bruno and Porter Ranch.

Mistakes aside, the CPUC is the textbook definition of a jack of all trades, but a master of none. In addition to energy, it also oversees hot air balloons, sewer systems and telecommunications.

Molina also plays the wealth card, arguing that SB 822 will level the playing field. But if that were true, it wouldn’t ditch innovative, consumer-friendly programs such as zero-rating, or “disproportionately impact lower-income Californians” as detailed in a Senate Committee analysis.

Net neutrality is a lofty goal that we should all strive for – at the federal level through bipartisan legislation. Wiener’s bill is the wrong approach to deliver meaningful, or even helpful, regulations.

Mike Montgomery is executive director of CALinnovates, a coalition of tech companies, including AT&T, and nonprofits. He can be contacted at mike@calinnovates.org.

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