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OpEd: Your Cable Bill Will Increase

If Senate Bill 822 (Weiner) passes in its current form, your internet rates will increase.

States around the country are rushing to restore the net neutrality rules developed under President Obama and rolled back by the Trump Administration. However as they say, “the devil is in the details.”

Senator Weiner's legislation, SB 822, would attempt to restore internet connection safeguards for Californians that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reversed, but would do so at your expense by shifting the cost from wealthy internet providers to consumers. This is particularly concerning because it hurts those who can least afford an increase in their internet bills, expands the current wealth inequity, and impedes access to technology.

The original goal of "net neutrality" was that internet service providers and governments would treat all data on the internet equally and not discriminate or charge differently based on the user, services, website, application, or device – in other words, it would provide an open internet.

However, one of the bill’s provisions would ban popular free data offers, like streaming movies and music that do not count against data plans. These free data plans, also known as zero-rated plans, are discounts used by millions of consumers to stream popular online content like video or music. Data shows that this act disproportionately hurts poor to middle-income earners who have a significantly higher reliance their smartphone as their only form of internet access.

These consumers will get hit with higher monthly costs when they exceed their data caps, or they’ll have to throttle their own internet use. The problem is that consumers rely on their internet access to get jobs and healthcare information and whether consumers pay an extra $10, $15, or $20 per month, it’s not affordable for many low-income people. This amounts to a regressive tax, which wasn’t in the Obama net neutrality rules.

So, who does benefit? If you scratch the surface of the net neutrality issue, you’ll see that it’s also a business-to-business issue. The bill appears to be written to favor very large “edge providers” – massive internet companies who generate so much traffic that infrastructure needs to be built around them, thus giving them a free ride (at our expense) when it comes to funding their equally massive infrastructure needs. That will shift all the costs onto ordinary consumers.

Although budding entrepreneurs and small businesses with limited financial resources would still be allowed to build an online presence for little to no additional cost, all public entities would be required to comply with procurement restrictions that would delay the deployment of critical new services. Yet with the right amendments, and political will, we can protect the little guys and the consumer.

Net-neutrality is necessary, but not at the expense of poor to middle-income earners, as this goes beyond the Obama net neutrality policy and hurts California consumers in the process. Remember one of the greatest tricks the devil ever played was convincing the people he does not exist. Believe in the devil or not, we need to amend this bill and protect consumers and small businesses before the cost of living goes to hell. Individually our voice has meaning; collectively it has power. Consider calling your legislator today to get their perspective – because “silence grants consent.”

Re-elected in 2014, Member Jerome E. Horton is the Third District Member of the California State Board of Equalization, representing more than 9.5 million residents in Los Angeles, a portion of San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. He was first elected to the Board of Equalization in 2010. Member Horton also serves as the Board of Equalization's Property Tax Committee Chair. He is the first to serve on the Board of Equalization with more than 21 years of experience at the BOE. Horton previously served as an Assembly Member of the California State Assembly from 2000-2006.

The five-member California State Board of Equalization (BOE) is a publicly elected tax board that serves a significant role in the assessment and administration of property taxes.

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