Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State signed a bill into law which counteracts the federal net neutrality rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The bill makes Washington the first state in the country to sign such a law.
The FCC created the net neutrality rules in 2015 in order to stop service providers from controlling or “throttling” internet traffic. In December of 2017, it reversed the ruling. This has resulted in numerous lawsuits by consumer groups, several state attorneys general as well as governors vowing to overturn the ruling. The New York Times reported tech companies Etsy, Foursquare, and Kickstarter have also filed suits on Monday.
Business leaders are divided on the change in rules. Some arguing net neutrality rules could hold back innovation while some small businesses and large web companies supporting the rules as the only way to insure a level plating field for all companies on the web regardless of size.
The Washington State Net Neutrality Bill
In Washington, House Bill 2282 will protect its residents and small businesses from throttling of internet traffic at the state level. When it goes into effect on June 6, internet service providers will be barred from blocking or throttling speeds for websites.
Under the new law, service providers are also required to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms. Companies violating the law will be forced to comply as the state can use its Consumer Protection Act to enforce it.
The bill had bipartisan support, passing by 35 to 14 in the state Senate and 93 to 5 in the state House. On the Governor’s press page, Inslee said, “Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet. We’ve seen the power of an open internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world — or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history.”
More States to Come
Washington is not the only state making this stance. To date, there are at least 25 other governors across the country who are looking into their own net neutrality bills. But executive orders have been signed by the governors of Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Vermont which ban state agencies from doing business with companies violating net neutrality rules.
As for the service providers, The Washington Times has reported Ron Main, executive director of the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, said, “The cable companies his group represents have already pledged not to block legal content or engage in paid prioritization.”
Main, who opposed the bill, added, “There should not be a state-by-state patchwork of differing laws and regulations.”
The FCC ruling takes effect in late spring. Stay tuned for more lawsuits!
Image: Governor Jay Inslee