Monday, June 25, 2018

Net Neutrality Takes A Hit In California-- An Object Lesson About Why We've Got To Get Bribery Out Of Politics


Kevin Jang vs Miguel Santiago

Do you recall when California's state Senate president, Kevin de León, successfully piloted a Medicare-for-All bill through his chamber of the legislature just to see the more conservative-- Democratic controlled but conservative-- Assembly kill it? The Assembly just did the same thing to net neutrality. De León got a model net neutrality bill through the state Senate, just to watch the Assembly destroy it. How does that happen in such a blue state? Oh, yes... glad you asked. So did Marguerite Reardon and Roger Cheng after they came to the conclusion that California will not be the poster child for the nation's strongest set of net neutrality protections." A crooked bribe-taking Democrat from Los Angeles, Miguel Santiago, chairman of the Assembly's Communications and Conveyance Committee, is the primary culprit here. Content providers-- with AT&T and Comcast leading the way-- have spent $60,000 bribing Santiago. Santiago's district is so blue that Republicans don't even run there. Last cycle he was up against another Democrat, Sandra Mendoza, who he beat 50,958 (58.2%) to 36,583 (41.8%)-- but that was before he made a spectacle of himself by killing genuine net neutrality. His changes to the Senate bill create loopholes through which broadband providers could charge fees to content providers while exempting their own content from any data caps.

"Lawmakers in the state Assembly," wrote Reardon and Cheng, "voted to cut many of the bill's most powerful provisions. The vote on Wednesday in a California Assembly committee hearing advanced a bill that implements some net neutrality protections, but it scaled back all the measures of the bill that had gone beyond the rules outlined in the Federal Communications Commission's 2015 regulation, which was officially taken off the books by the Trump Administration's commission last week. In a surprise move, the vote happened before the hearing officially started, after which the committee listened to public feedback. 
"It is, with the amendments, a fake net neutrality bill," said Sen. Scott Wiener from San Francisco, who introduced the original bill. He said the amendments "mutilated" the rules.

The move is a major blow to Democrats in Congress and in state houses across the country, who were looking to California to set a high standard, as they push to reinstate strong net neutrality protections to replace the Obama-era rules the Republican-led FCC voted to eliminate. 

"It sends exactly the wrong message to other lawmakers across the country," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. "And it's an embarrassment for both the Democratic party and the California State Legislature as a whole."

California's bill was considered the "gold standard" in net neutrality protections, because it went beyond the FCC's 2015 net neutrality "bright line" rules by including provisions like a ban on zero-rating, a business practice that allows broadband providers like AT&T to exempt their own services from their monthly wireless data caps, while services from competitors are counted against those limits. The result is a market controlled by internet service providers like AT&T, who can shut out the competition by creating an economic disadvantage for those competitors through its wireless service plans.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles, expressed concern that the bill went too far and could have hurt consumers who would benefit in the short term from perks like zero-rated plans. He also worried the strict rules would hurt investment from broadband and wireless companies, which would be prohibited from experimenting with new business models in a changing market.

During the hearing, Santiago compared internet access to a bridge connecting a village, noting that he doesn't see an issue with the bridge operator setting up fast lanes. He added that additional regulations would stymie the creation of new bridges, which he argued would result in lower tolls for everyone.

But critics like Fight For the Future say Santiago caved to pressure from industry lobbyists who had donated thousands of dollars to his campaigns.

Santiago denied those allegations.

"This is the legislative process at work," he said in an email. "Any suggestions of actions taken today somehow being otherwise motivated are irresponsible, at best and insulting beyond that."

In a prepared statement, he said he was concerned by "Trump's rollback" of the net neutrality regulations. He added that, "California should once again stand as a back-stop of 'the resistance' by beating back both Trump's administration and the billion-dollar corporations he's trying to protect." And he explained that's why he supports the amended bill, which he said he is certain will eventually be challenged in court by the industry.

"Make no mistake," he added. "The industry supports Trump's actions and will do everything they can to sue and block implementation of net neutrality in California. When that happens, we will fight back."

An AT&T representative said he opposed the Wiener bill and defended the practice of zero-rated plans. He kicked off his comments during the hearing with the company's vow that it would not degrade high-speed internet service, and argued that the California bill, as it originally stood, went far beyond the Obama-era FCC's 2015 net neutrality order.

"There's no presentation of evidence of an actual problem," he said. "You're not blocked."

Steve Carlson, speaking for the CTIA wireless trade group at the hearing, said he opposed the bill both in its original and amended form, arguing both bills go beyond the 2015 order. He called the fears over the lack of net neutrality laws "alarmist speculation."

Wiener attempted to pull the bill from further consideration, but the committee overrode his decision and opted to continue the process of turning the amended bill into law.

Sen. Kevin de León had introduced a second net neutrality bill, and de León and Wiener had plans to combine the bills. The committee denied amendments that would have linked the bills, so they could be considered together.  Sen. de León wasn't present at Wednesday's hearing and his bill was never mentioned during the proceeding. A spokesman for the senator offered this statement: "I am very disappointed in the outcome of today's hearing in the Assembly Communications Committee. However, Senator Wiener and I are committed to continue working with all parties to protect consumers and Net Neutrality in California."

Sen. de León withdrew his bill when the committee indicated they would add the same amendments as Wiener's bill, according to a person familiar with de León's thinking.
This cycle, Santiago came in first in the low-turnout primary-- 15,513 votes (70%)-- and Kevin Jang came in second with 3,551 votes (16%). In 2016 Hillary beat Trump in the district 84.8% to 9.6%. The district, which is 68.32% Latino and 18.25% Asian, includes Boyle Heights, Westlake, Pico-Union, Vernon, Little Tokyo, Huntington Park and much of Downtown and Koreatown. If I lived there I'd vote for Kevin Jang in November. Asked about the net neutrality debacle, Kevin said he doesn't "understand why [Santiago] did it in favor of AT&T and Comcast, not district people. He refused to pass the law that can (1) benefit low-income people, and (2) prevent AT&T and Comcast to control the mass media directly and indirectly. California's State Net Neturality Law (original version) could show California as the most progressive state to pass, and it will give a big sign on a national level. This is not just a local district or state issue, rather it is national. He is totally going against a Democratic movement. I strongly oppose what Miguel Santiago did to the original net neutrality law." There is no other way to teach entrenched, corrupt Democrats a lesson and the fact that Santiago's opponent is a progressive Democrat really makes it a no-brainer.

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At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how little did AT&T pay that rat bastard Santiago to screw over 30 million-plus Californians? They should be arrested for theft since per capita that cost was mere pennies.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't suppose an epiphany is in order...

At 8:37 PM, Blogger edmondo said...

"Hold your nose and vote for Democrats. It's important!"


At 6:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DWT, of COURSE we need to remove bribery from politics.

Yet you continue to advocate swelling the ranks of the democraps.

Surely you must know that the democraps are probably the MORE corrupt party and will NEVER UNILATERALLY DISARM, especially when that means refusing billions per year.

So... how does your advocacy square with your statement of truth?

It's exactly like your listening to jeff flake talk vs. watching him vote. The two don't jive.


At 9:11 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Let's end all bribery with these.


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