Washington is First State to Enact Net Neutrality Protection Laws

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Jay Inslee, Washington State Governor, signed the nation’s first law that enacts state protection of net neutrality. The move has prompted a potential legal battle with the Federal Communications Commission. While net neutrality has been killed at the federal level, there has been a recent surge to bring back previous protections at the state level. The law signed into effect makes it illegal for internet service providers to manipulate their networks in any way in order to make more money. However, it does not stop ISPs from imposing data limits on their customers, nor does it address the practice of ISP’s allowing particular content to bypass these limits.

The bill made its way through the Washington state legislature, backed by a rare show of bipartisan support, with dozens of Republican lawmakers voting in favor of the bill. The bill passed through with a 93 to 5 vote in the house and a 35 to 14 vote in the Senate.

Governor Jay Inslee said at the signing, “Internet service providers otherwise could limit what websites or apps you would be able to use. They could slow down your use and access unless you use their preferred apps or their chosen services.” He went on to add “We are here to say Washingtonians will be protected from throttling, from fast lanes, and they will be protected in preserving an open and accessible internet.”

Sarah Bird, CEO of Seattle-based search engine optimization company Moz, was highly vocal in support of the bill, saying,“As more of our economic opportunities such as education, health care, banking, job functions, media viewing and relationships thrive online, the more important it is to preserve consumer choice. Internet service providers cannot be allowed to substitute their money-motivated judgment on how you spend your time online. Our internet economy is the envy of the world; Washington lawmakers are helping make sure that remains true.”

So far, the FCC has not responded to a request for a comment regarding the passing of the bill. While it is a victory for the state of Washington, it could pose a legal issue, considering the rules passed by the FCC in December preempts the states from enacting their own net neutrality rules. The new rules passed by the FCC don’t go into effect until April 23, but Washington’s new law doesn’t take effect until June 6. Roslyn Layton, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told NBC News “This is symbolic politics, because the states know it is illegal to do. But they can put rules on the book and make it look like they’re doing something.”

So far, there are dozens of other states that are considering to enact laws similar to the one Washington just passed. These states include Montana, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and Vermont, all of which have signed executive orders regarding net neutrality.

The California State Senate passed a bill earlier in February that would impose net neutrality restrictions on ISP’s, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned it could potentially be thrown out for legal reasons.

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