Washington has become the first state to pass a law that protects net neutrality, preventing internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down or blocking online content. Democrat Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill (House Bill 2282) this morning, which prohibits ISPs from blocking legal content, apps, and services. It will also prevent the slowing down of connection speeds, also known as throttling, as well as paid prioritization, where ISPs favor certain traffic that’s beneficial to them.
“At the core of our action today is consumer protection,” Inslee told The New York Times. “States need to act because under the Trump administration, we have seen citizens, including seven million in Washington, stripped of core protections like the open internet.”
The Associated Press points out that this is not technically the first net neutrality law (Oregon has also passed legislation), but it’s the first law where violations by all ISPs are enforceable, under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. The Federal Communications Commission approved a measure to remove net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote back in December. The FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting the decision, so it’s very likely ISPs will sue Washington state over this new law to find out if the FCC does have the power to preempt the move.
“At the core of our action today is consumer protection.”
The FCC’s order that killed net neutrality claimed that individual states implementing their own net neutrality laws would cause too much difficulty and confusion if rules were made on a state by state basis. It’s worth noting, though, that the FCC has previously lost on a ruling to preempt state laws that ban municipal ISPs. “The states have a full right to protect their citizens,” Inslee said, adding that he is confident of the legality of the state’s law, according to the AP.
Since the FCC approved the removal of net neutrality rules, a host of lawsuits have cropped up. In January, 22 attorneys general filed a lawsuit to block the repeal, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order that would require ISPs to abide by net neutrality rules despite the rollback. Democrats are also fighting the repeal in the Senate.
As we’ve previously reported, the FCC’s new net neutrality rules are expected to kick in for the general public on April 23rd. Washington state’s net neutrality law will go into effect by June 6th.