Victory! California’s Legislature Pulls AT&T And Comcast Bill That Protected Their Monopolies
Above Photo: From Eff.org
AT&T and Comcast lobbyists fought hard this year to pass A.B. 1366, a bill that would have protected their broadband monopolies. Thanks to your support, that bill will not move forward this year.
The California legislature in 2012 decided to eliminate the authority of its own telecom regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) through the end of 2019—on the promise that such a move would produce an affordable, widely available, high-speed broadband network. What happened instead: over the past several years, California’s broadband market has been heading into a high-speed monopoly. For many, that’s led to more expensive and slower service than many other markets. In fact, all this law has done is protect broadband monopolies. As a result, the major ISPs were working hard to get it renewed through a new bill introduced this session, A.B. 1366.
EFF has opposed A.B. 1366 from the beginning, making clear that extending this law would leave the majority of Californians with only one option for high-speed broadband—if they had any at all. There was nothing good about the bill and nothing in it for Internet users. It exempted VoIP calls from privacy protections, it deregulated the prison telecom industry to allow for charging inmates’ families insane rates, it hindered state public safety efforts, and it prevented the state from addressing its broadband monopoly problem.
Yet our opposition alone was not enough to stop this bill. It also took California residents all across the state contacting their legislators in Sacramento by phone and email to tell them to vote no. When the public speaks out clearly, all the money and influence loses.
With a Very Bad Law Expiring, We Now Must Fight for a Better Future
With A.B. 1366 defeated—and the law restraining state authority over broadband set to expire at the end of this year—it is critical the state of California use its power to implement a plan to connect all Californians to affordable high-speed fiber access to the Internet. Such an effort is more important now than ever, as companies like AT&T and Verizon have abandoned fiber to the home, allowing cable companies like Comcast to remain unchallenged on high-speed access. Policymakers must do the hard work of identifying why the largest telecoms with billions in capital have willfully decided not to invest in future-proof networks. They must also promote policies that will accelerate the work of the small ISPs and local governments that shoulder the burden of building fiber networks.
As the fifth-largest economy in the world, and home to some of America’s largest cities, California can be just as connected as South Korea or Japan. Our rural markets can be connected to a 21st century infrastructure. Every major economy that is roughly the size of California has already adopted universal fiber plans. There is no reason this state can’t follow that example, or even step into a leadership role. In fact, it was historical efforts by California to inject competition in the telecom market in the 90s that lead to the 1996 Telecommunications Act’s foundational competition policies. Many of those federal laws inspired by California’s past efforts are what empower the handful of small fiber providers that exist today. As the FCC and Congress continue to fail to produce the national fiber policy this country desperately needs, California should move forward with its own plan to connect its residents.