July 19, 2018
It is often customary, when writing a critique of an elected representative, to espouse one’s own political affiliation – to perhaps tout the fact that I’ve been an active member of the Democratic Party for close to 15 years. However, Net Neutrality is so blatantly non-partisan that it would be more relevant to tell you and your readership that I’ve been working with computer technology for close to 20 years, and that, like virtually everyone else, I use the Internet on a daily basis. I currently serve as the Coordinator for Scholarly Innovation Technologies at the UCLA Library, and I’m writing to you because yesterday, July 17th, was the first time in my life that I became truly politically active. Beyond the occasional letter of support or anger, beyond casting my vote on Election Day, yesterday I attended an open house hosted by Sydney Kamlager, the State Assembly Member for District 54. Assemblywoman Kamlager represents a large swathe of Culver City, and I strongly believe that your readership will be interested in the conversation I had with her about Net Neutrality.
On June 20th, 2018, Assemblywoman Kamlager, along with seven other members of the California Assembly’s Committee on Communications and Conveyance, voted in favor of gutting the extensive Net Neutrality protections written into Senate Bill 822. It is because of this vote that I left work early to confront her about this decision. I had a chance to speak to her, face to face, for about 20 minutes. We spoke only about SB822. When I asked her why she voted in favor of gutting the bill, she gave me a whole slew of excuses, starting with "I didn't vote, I abstained." Once I showed her the printout of her vote showing that she did, in fact, vote in favor of eliminating the protections, she began to equivocate, trying to explain to me the complexities of the committee process. She claimed that voting for the gutted bill would somehow allow for changes to be made further down the road.
Essentially, it came down to whether or not the bill, in its gutted and perverted form, should die, or if it should continue to be picked at in committee in a vain attempt to regain all of the protections the telecom lobbyists removed. She never once gave me the impression that she was strongly in favor of the bill or Net Neutrality, and even had the audacity to tell me that opinion was split on Net Neutrality. This is demonstrably false, as an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the public is in favor of strict Net Neutrality protections. She was more in favor of allowing the telecoms to utterly eviscerate the consumer protections in the bill and then to try and crawl back up, essentially allowing herself to be forced into negotiating from a position of weakness. The alternative was to let the corrupted bill die, and then wait a year to reintroduce the legislation in its unadulterated form. In my view, she chose the path of a telecom supplicant instead of taking a principled stand and rejecting the excoriated bill. It is far better to wait a year for a robust Net Neutrality bill rather than a watered down, telecom-friendly bill.
In short, I found Assemblywoman Kamlager to be feckless and equivocal on the subject of Net Neutrality, completely unwilling to take a strong stance in favor of the consumer protections that are favored by the overwhelming majority of her constituents and Californians across our State. With this bill, California had a chance to become a leader in the fight for Net Neutrality. With her vote, Assemblywoman Kamlager endangered that chance in favor of the telecom giants.