California governor signs tough net neutrality bill

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's toughest net neutrality measure Sunday, requiring internet providers to maintain a level playing field online.

Advocates of net neutrality hope the move in the home of the global technology industry will have national implications, prompting Congress to enact national net neutrality rules or encouraging other states to follow suit.

It's the latest example of the nation's most populous state seeking to drive public policy outside its borders and rebuff President Donald Trump's agenda.

The Federal Communications Commission last year repealed rules that prevented internet companies from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

California's measure is likely to face a legal challenge from internet companies.

Telecommunications companies lobbied hard to kill it or water it down, saying it would lead to higher internet and cellphone bills and discourage investments in faster internet. They say it's unrealistic to expect them to comply with internet regulations that differ from state to state.

Net neutrality advocates worry that without rules, internet providers could create fast lanes and slow lanes that favor their own sites and apps or make it harder for consumers to see content from competitors.

That could limit consumer choice or shut out upstart companies that can't afford to buy access to the fast lane, critics say.

The measure, written by Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, prohibits internet providers from blocking or slowing data based on content or from favoring websites or video streams from companies that pay extra.

It also bans "zero rating," in which internet providers don't count certain content against a monthly data cap - generally video streams produced by the company's own subsidiaries and partners.

Oregon, Washington and Vermont have approved legislation related to net neutrality, but California's measure is seen as the most comprehensive attempt to codify the principle in a way that might survive a likely court challenge. An identical bill was introduced in New York.

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