Lawmakers in California passed a bill last month that would ensure net neutrality regulations are state law, but Federal Communications Commission head Ajit Pai is not happy. In a speech on Friday at the Maine Policy Heritage Center, Pai called the newly passed bill “egregious” and “illegal.”
California State Senate Democrat Scott Wiener, who co-wrote the bill, called it “the strongest net neutrality standards in the nation” in a statement.
“This is about a level playing field and an internet where we as individuals get to decide where we go on the internet instead of being told by internet service providers, or manipulated by internet service providers, into going where they want us to go,” Wiener told reporters at a press conference.
If approved by Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill would ban internet service providers from blocking or slowing content from some websites, and prioritizing some sites over others. Essentially, the bill would restore Obama-era net neutrality regulations that Pai’s FCC killed.
Pai used a free-market analysis to comment on the proposed state-level restrictions, calling it a “radical, anti-consumer” regulation that would take choices away from internet users. According to Pai, “nanny-state California legislators” are pushing state-level net neutrality regulations because they see free data as “the enemy.”
He went on to blast California lawmakers by comparing their efforts to protect net neutrality to their push to restrict plastic straws in the state. “I suppose a broadband pipe might look to some like a plastic straw,” Pai said.
Despite his remarks, the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality was unpopular among most Americans. A survey taken last December by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy found that 83% of Americans opposed the rollback, including 75% of Republicans, 89% of Democrats, and 86% of independents.
The Legislative Director for the ACLU of California, Kevin Baker, said in a statement that bills to protect net neutrality are “important for consumer protection,” and “fundamental to free speech.”