California Legislature considers net neutrality bill

[Mark Leno statement, via Media Alliance]

California Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced today he will introduce "Net Neutrality" legislation that will preserve the free and open Internet by allowing all users to access the content of their choice.

"The Internet has provided a forum for free speech and open communication, giving a voice for everyone from the largest business with the most expensive website to the individual with a one-person operation," said Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). "We can't allow those who want to serve as our Internet gatekeepers to discriminate against content and decide for us what we can and cannot view."

The legislation will preserve the Internet as we know it- a driving force of economic innovation, a valuable research tool and a forum of free speech and civic involvement. Specifically, it will prevent companies that control the internet's infrastructure from discriminating against content based on its source or ownership.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Maryland and Maine, but the sizable force of California's economy is expected to help secure Internet freedom nationwide if the legislation becomes law. The language of the bill closely resembles a concession made by AT&T in finalizing its merger with BellSouth late last year. Last month US Senators Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced legislation to preserve network neutrality. Co-sponsors of this congressional bill include Senators Kerry, Boxer, Harkin, Leahy, Clinton and Obama.

Without such legislation, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have the ability to use their power in a number of discriminatory ways such as block their customers from using rival web-based phone services, block their customers from visiting certain websites that offer political viewpoints other than their own, block emails from advocacy campaigns that may object to the company's policies or labor practices, as well as charge more money for "enhanced" services.
"The Internet has fostered innovation by providing a level playing field. This legislation will give content creators and users protection from discrimination by ISPs," Leno continued.

Assemblyman Leno has a long history as a civil rights leader and sees this legislation as a continuation of that work. "This is about the equality of opportunity and access online," Leno said. "The entire premise that has allowed the Internet to flourish is that the network itself does not discriminate."

article originally published at .

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey