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California bill aims to revive broadband privacy rules that were killed by Trump and Congress

A woman works on her laptop in the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
A woman works on her laptop in the Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Several months ago, President Trump signed into law a repeal of sweeping privacy regulations limiting what broadband providers can do with customer data. Now, an Assembly Democrat is trying to resuscitate those rules for Californians.

Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) unveiled a measure on Monday that would largely enshrine the sputtered federal regulations into California state law. The bill would require Internet service providers, such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, to get permission from customers before using, selling or permitting access to data about their browsing history.

Such restrictions were crafted by the Federal Communications Commission under the Obama administration. But the FCC under Trump sought to roll back those rules before they went into effect. Congress approved the repeal in March, and the president signed it. 

"Congress and the administration went against the will of the vast majority of Americans when they revoked the FCC rules," Chau said at a news conference, adding that with his measure, AB 375, "California is going to restore what Washington stripped away."

California is the 20th state to introduce a bill to restore privacy rules in the wake of the action in Washington. Supporters of the bill acknowledged that they'll face stiff opposition from Internet service providers and a possible challenge over whether these state-level regulations conflict with federal law.

Ernesto Falcon, legislative counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was confident the proposed bill would not be preempted by federal law, because communications law has traditionally allowed a division of responsibilities between the state and federal government.

Joining Chau at a Capitol news conference was an array of privacy advocates and consumer groups boosting the bill.

"AB 375 means that no Californian will be forced to pay for access to the Internet with their money and their privacy rights," said Becca Cramer, legislative coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

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