California, Nebraska, Washington Legislators Propose Net Neutrality ProtectionsJoseph GruberTech00:40 09.01.2018Get short URL
The battle for net neutrality in the US continues at a state level, as legislators from California, Nebraska and Washington state all propose bills to enshrine some or all of the repealed federal regulations in the state legal code.
California, the most populous state in the union, saw a new bill introduced that would reclassify internet service providers (ISPs) as a public utility, barring any ISP that violates their consumer protections from government contractors or use of utility poles.
“The bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to effectuate net neutrality in California utilizing the state’s regulatory powers and to prevent Internet service providers from engaging in practices inconsistent with net neutrality,” reads the bill’s proposal, written by Democratic State Senator Scott Weiner.
In Nebraska, Democratic State Senator Adam Morfeld introduced a Friday bill that would restore net neutrality protections, prohibiting internet service providers from “limiting or restricting access to websites, applications, or content.”
“For me, this is an economic development and consumer protection bill,” Morfeld told local sources. “The internet drives the economy now and it’s critical people have open and fair access to the internet.”
Nebraska matters because it is the first red state to introduce net neutrality protections, as the issue has been mostly drawn across partisan lines. However, Morfeld noted that the issue transcended typical barriers. “I was passionate about it, but I was shocked at the support I received from Republicans, from Democrats and Libertarians,” he said.
Washington state, meanwhile, has proposed a law to required ISPs to disclose pricing and speed information about their services to consumers — and more importantly, to prevent ISPs from creating “fast lanes” of internet access for certain websites and consumers.
Under the new Washington law, ISPs must “disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices.”
However, large ISPs remain influential lobbyists in most states, including California. Last year, Comcast and Verizon successfully lobbied to kill a California broadband services bill meant to protect consumers from ISP abuse.
But the FCC is intent on cutting these state-level efforts off before they materialize. On Thursday, the commission specifically attempted to preempt actions to protect net neutrality on a state or local level. Their edict is meant to prevent federal or state governments to police ISPs, which critics have warned will open the door to abuse from large providers.
As such, these bills are likely to lead to lawsuits if they pass. Sixteen state attorneys general have already vowed to sue the FCC to stop the repeal of net neutrality.
The FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order, which passed the FCC’s voting board on December 14, is meant to decrease government regulation over ISPs, removing the FCC from regulating them almost entirely. Instead, oversight will be handled by the Federal Trade Commission — which, unlike the FCC, does not have enforcement authority.