Leno aims to protect net neutrality

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, says he’ll introduce a “net neutrality” bill barring companies that control the Internet’s infrastructure from discriminating against content based on its source or ownership.

Some broadband providers have talked about starting to act like gatekeepers on the thus-far unfettered World Wide Web, perhaps blocking customers from using rival Web-based phone services, or from visiting Web sites that offer political viewpoints other than their own. Maybe they would block e-mails from advocacy campaigns criticizing that company’s policies or labor practices, or charge more money for “enhanced” services. Opponents say this would ruin the online world’s democratic nature, subverting the free flow of information.

U.S. senators Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, last year introduced legislation to preserve net neutrality, but it was stopped cold by heavy lobbying from telecommunications companies. They reintroduced their bill last month, with U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., among its original cosponsors.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Maryland and Maine, but Leno hopes California’s enormous population and economy can lend some real momentum to the federal effort.

“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 Web site to the individual with a one-person operation,” Leno said in a news release. “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.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.