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As Larger Battle Rages, Washington Enacts First State Law to Protect Net Neutrality

"Momentum is building from coast to coast to #SaveTheInternet. Now we need the other Washington to act."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs into law a measure to protect net neutrality throughout his state. (Photo: Washington Legislative Support Services/Medium)

While battles continue in both the federal court system and Congress, Washington has become the first state to enact a law to enforce net neutrality protections following a federal rollback late last year.

"Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet," Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said Monday during a signing ceremony for the bill. "We've seen the power of an open internet. 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."

Washington's House Bill 2282, passed by the state legislature last week, came in response to a party-line vote by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December to dismantle federal regulations of internet service providers (ISPs) that aimed to prevent massive telecommunications companies from throttling speeds and blocking access to certain online content.

The state's move comes as nearly two dozen state attorneys general as well as the advocacy group Free Press have launched legal challenges to the federal rollback, and members of Congress—led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—are pushing for the passage of a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, under which lawmakers could vote to reverse the FCC's decision.

While open internet advocates welcomed the news from Washington, they continue to emphasize the need for action to protect the web on a national scale.

Although this is the first state-level legislation enacted in response to the FCC rollback, the governors of Montana, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Vermont have responded with executive orders that require all ISPs that contract with state agencies to follow net neutrality principles.

As CNET notes, the Washington law is "almost certainly going to face challenge from the federal government, as the FCC's vote in December approved a provision that prohibits states from enacting their own net neutrality rules."

Despite the FCC provision, "at least 25 other states are considering net neutrality bills, including California, Illinois, and New York," Wired reports. "Both houses of Oregon's legislature have passed a bill that, like the executive orders, bans state agencies from doing business with broadband providers that don't follow net neutrality. Governor Kate Brown plans to sign it within 30 days."

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