Published: Wed, March 07, 2018
Markets | By Rosalie Gross

Washington state passes law restoring net neutrality

Washington state passes law restoring net neutrality

Photo Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State signed into law the most sweeping state action so far against new federal rules that strip away regulations on how high-speed internet providers handle digital data. Moreover, the FCC's net neutrality repeal order cited historical precedence of the agency's supposed authority to preempt any state laws.

Washington, home to tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, is the first state to pass a net neutrality law, negating the federal government's rollback of that internet-guiding policy.

At least 25 other states are considering net neutrality bills, including California, Illinois, and NY.

The FCC's Restoring Internet Order rolling back the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization also said it preempted state attempts to re-impose them, but it is unclear how that applies to state contracts.

Washington became the first state in the nation to require internet service be "net neutral" as Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bipartisan bill Monday afternoon.

Provisions of the law could be prosecuted under the state's Consumer Protection Act.

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Backstory: Late a year ago, the Federal Communications Commission voted to reverse Obama-era rules that sought to democratize the Internet.

As a longtime advocate for a free and open internet for all, I have consistently supported net neutrality, which provides a level playing field for small businesses and entrepreneurs to compete, while simultaneously protecting consumers from exorbitant fees for faster service.

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices.

ISPs including AT&T and Comcast have said they won't block or throttle legal websites with the relaxed rules but left open the possibility of charging more for some content. With federal authorities moving in the opposite direction, do states have any leeway to implement their own rules?

Because the FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting its decision, opponents of the Washington law have said it would lead to lawsuits. The law will go into effect June 6.

States like New York, New Jersey and Montana are even coming up with their own regulations to try to keep net neutrality alive.

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