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Washington State Sticks It to the FCC, Passes its Own Net Neutrality Rules

Washington State Sticks It to the FCC, Passes its Own Net Neutrality Rules
Thu, 3/8/2018 - by Brett Molina
This article originally appeared on USA Today

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill in Olympia, Wash., that makes Washington the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements in response to the Federal Communications Commission's recent repeal of Obama-era rules. (Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP)

Washington became the first state to pass its own laws governing net neutrality, countering the U.S. government's repeal of national regulations preventing Internet service providers from blocking or throttling content.

"We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said before signing the measure, the Associated Press reported. "We know how important this is."

Inslee, a Democrat, signed the law protecting net neutrality rules within the state on Monday. The new legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, cements into state law the rules set by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015.

The FCC's rules prohibited Internet Service Providers from blocking legal content, throttling traffic or prioritizing content on their broadband networks. In December, Republican commissioners successfully overturned those rules, voting to replace them with a looser set of requirements that ISPs disclose any blocking or prioritization of their own content.

The repeal, supported by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the major cable and telecom companies and opposed by large and small tech Internet companies, garnered intense public interest. State attorneys general have sued to overturn the FCC's new rules. Democratic lawmakers, consumer groups and other supporters of the Obama-era rules are also pushing for a Congressional Review Act measure to reinstate the old rules.

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. They've argued the 2015 rules were too burdensome and held back investments.

Some states are passing their own laws. Washington's law will take effect June 6, two months after the FCC's new rules are slated to go into effect. However, the FCC’s order bars state laws from contradicting the federal government’s approach, setting up the possibility that state efforts like Washington's will wind up in court.

Last month, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a bill requiring state and local government to acquire only broadband access from companies complying with net neutrality standards.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, governors in Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Vermont have signed executive orders tied to net neutrality.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, filed a suit federal court in Washington, D.C., last month challenging the FCC's new rules.

As of last month, legislators in 26 states have introduced 59 bills in support of net neutrality rules.

Originally published on USA Today

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