After FCC Repeal, Net Neutrality Lives On—In Pacific Northwest

As federal, Obama-era net neutrality rules officially came off the books earlier this week, after the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission ditched the open internet rules in a party-line vote in December, the Pacific Northwest state of Washington became the first state to impose its own net neutrality regulations.

Washington passed its net neutrality bill with support from both sides of the partisan aisle back in February, but the bill took effect on Monday night, the same day that the federal rules expired as a result of the FCC decision. The new law essentially keeps the rules which were put in place under President Barack Obama in 2015 in effect within Washington’s state borders.

Taking its content from the now-repealed federal rules, Washington’s law prohibits internet service providers from slowing or blocking data to and from certain sites, while giving priority on an “internet fast lane” to others—and prevents ISPs doing business within its borders from charging extra for sites to have their traffic allowed to flow freely, accordin to a report by Ars Technica.

Washington’s Pacific Northwest neighbor, Oregon, is also readying its own state-level net neutrality bill to take effect on January 19, though that bill will apply only to ISPs that receive state government contracts or payments from the state.

“I think you would hope that a number of states taking action, either by legislation or executive order, would send a pretty strong message to the internet service providers,” Washington State Represntative Drew Hansen, a Democrat, said this week. “They said they support net neutrality in principle. We’ll see if they were being candid with us.”

Washington is also one of 22 states now suing the FCC to reverse the net neutrality repeal. And on May 16, the United States Senate voted narrowly to reinstate net neutrality rules at the federal level. But the vote was largely symbolic, as the GOP-controlled House has no plans to schedule a net neutrality vote—and Donald Trump would likely veto any bill reversing the FCC’s decision.

Washington’s law, and other other state net neutrality laws in the works such as the bill passed by the California State Senate on May 31, are likely to face stiff opposition from the Trump administration, however. The new rules approved by the FCC in December contain language preventing states from adopting their own net neutrality laws—a prohibition that will quickly lead to further lawsuits against the federal government.

Photo By Drums600/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

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