Washington Becomes the First State to Pass Its Own Laws to Preserve Net Neutrality


While the Federal Communications Commission had barred states from overriding its net neutrality repeal, Washington has become the first state to pass its own law that protects net neutrality protections. The law will prevent Big Telecom from slowing down internet access, prioritizing certain traffic, or censoring content online.

The bill (PDF) was signed by Democrat Governor Jay Inslee into law on Monday night. "We’ve seen the power of an open internet," Inslee said during the bill signing ceremony. "It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world  -  or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history."

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In his statement, Inslee said that consumer protection is "at the core of our action today."

"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.”

When the FCC approved the net neutrality repeal in a 3-2 vote in December, the Commission had prohibited states from passing contradicting laws suggesting it would cause too much confusion if every state passed its own laws. It's unclear whether the FCC now has powers to preempt this state law. However, Washington doesn't feel deterred.

"The states have a full right to protect their citizens," Inslee said, adding that the FCC's repeal was "a clear case of the Trump administration favoring powerful corporate interests over the interests of millions of Washingtonians and Americans".

Gov Inslee signs a bill to set up the state's own net neutrality rules in response to FCC's repeal (AP)

It remains to be seen if other states follow suit, but Washington could be looking at some lawsuits coming from the ISPs who just celebrated their big win. Along with Washington, Oregon has also taken measures to protect net neutrality with legislation. However, Washington appears to be the only state that has added even more requirements on the ISPs, including demanding them to disclose information about their management practices and commercial terms.

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Earlier, over 23 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality protections on constitutional grounds.

The FCC is yet to respond to Washington's move. The state's net neutrality law will take effect by June 6 while the FCC's repeal and the new Internet Freedom rules go live on April 23.